Severe Leg Cramps

I recently had an episode of SEVERE leg cramps (full legs) that ended me in the ER. Cramps are not new to me, but this was way over the top. I’m desparately trying to figure out what caused them. A couple hours before, I had a BS over 600, which I treated with 20 units insulin by syringe (I have a pump). Can the amount of insulin cause this? The high itself? My life is unusually stressful now with a move and other family health problems. I’m also exhausted! But my main problem right now is the fear that this will happen again. I would like to be reassured that this was an isolated event. Can anyone help?

I have had them before with a high, but I was also low on potasium(sp?) at the time. Eating bananas helps, I try to have one a day or I have issues. When I had them I was screaming and could not get it to release for an hour or so. My calf muscles were tightened and “locked”. Stress can cause the high that contributes to the cramps.

Yes, I have had them really badly when my BG is high…you are partially dehydrating yourself…you need to drinks lots of fluids…your kidneys are having a hard time flushing the “high BG” out of your body…the kidneys needs lots-a fluid…water…nothing else…its always a sign of kidneys working too hard !!! Be careful, because constant high BG can lead to kidney damage. My husband was on dialysis (not diabetic- Alport syndrome) and I saw how horrible dialysis can be. Scared me straight !!!
Hope this helps…
Sheila (type 1 55 years)

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Thank you, Mark. Sounds like you know what I was experiencing. Now I’m feeling foolish for what looks like I was just a wimp, which contributes to the stress. I’m going to go buy some bananas. Thanks again.

Thank you, Sheila. Time for another glass of water : )

Highs cause horrible leg cramps for me. Right before I was diagnosed, they were at the worst. I was also lacking in potassium. Bananas, apricots, potatoes, avacado, fish, beans, are all good sources of potassium.

I don’t get the horrible cramps every time that I am high. So I wonder if it is a combination of high blood sugar and potassium deficiency or if those two are related in some way.

But I definitely know what you are talking about!!

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Hi Clairene: Right before I was diagnosed with Type 1, I had hideous leg cramps. Basically, you have lost so much potassium with the uncontrolled highs that it happens. Bananas do help! Recently, sadly, I have had leg cramps again, but this time due to my drop in hormones at age 49+. Common for women of a certain age. I am trying extra magnesium, based on what a pediatrician friend (also of a certain age) recommended. I think it is helping a bit.

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Thanks melitta. I have been having inconsistent cramping leg pain at night for some time. Potassium levels were checked, and all was ok, I know I am not dehydrated,. I am redoing my basals. I seem to be dropping a lot, so I think my basals at certain times of the day need to be redone… I did not know leg pains are hormone related( I am 54 and menopausal)!! I will try the magnesium supplements.

God Bless,

I grew up watching my father have these leg cramps, he would have my mom put hot towels on his leg(s). I think this was more like touture. He was diabetic and drank alcohol a lot, maybe this led to dehydration and was part of the cramps. My younger brother has these cramps and he says to drink ice water to help stop them, I do not know where he got this, but he has studied to be a surgical assistant. I have had the cramps for about three years and finally my PCP said they are due to the diabetes and to take flexerol or ibuprofen every day to prevent the cramps. When I have had the cramps in the past I have tried Bananas for potasium, hot showers to relax the muscles, Gatorade in case it was related to elytrolites, ice water, and flexerol. The cramps usually last about 30 minutes, but I had one at work that lasted for at least 2 hours, I could not move and I was in the standing position leaning on a table, they kept giving me juices to drink and saying it was potassium. I was like call the ambulance, please.

Thank you, Melitta!

Lots of ideas in here! I’m willing to try anything. Thanks for your input.

I just read on-line, after doing a search, that an old-fashioned remedy for nightime leg cramps is to put, get this, two bars of soap under the bottom sheet near your legs . Many people said it worked like a charm for them.
All anecdotal evidence, but I will give it a try tonight myself… They said it did not make any difference whether the soap was new or old, it just had to be unwrapped…I have no idea if this would help, but I do not think it would hurt. Maybe worth a try?

God bless,

i get them very baddly as well. what i ussually do, if i can walk, is to go into the bathroom and press my leg against the cold tub

Hi Clairene

I used to get those when I wasn’t keeping a close monitor of my BG. I used to wake up to my foot twisted in an uncomfortably odd direction- but if I moved my foot (or even my toes) the pain would shoot up my leg and in an almost paralysing feeling. It was some of the most intense pain I’ve ever felt.

Eating bananas helped me some… but mostly the cold tile (like mentioned from another member) was what helped me the most.

Well, that and lowering my average BG. Also mentioned, stress does not help in lowering BG. Intense emotional stress will cause me to skyrocket into ketoacidosis.

Keep hydrated and test often until the stress wears away. In these situations, hydration will bring your BG down faster than insulin alone. Definitely take insulin to correct, but drink lots of water and pee often to flush the sugar out of your blood.

Yeah, it is like if you barely move your toe, you’re a gonner. I had the one while standing and had to keep the exact pressure on for about two hours. Just thinking about the cramps has me scared I might have one. It’s like if we don’t mention them, maybe they will leave us alone.

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i get bad leg cramps with bad highs, especially with even mild ketones, when i’m sick, etc

Perhaps we need to form “club leg cramps”. It seems I’ve had problems with them all my life - even before I was diagnosed with diabetes; sometimes they’re bad - sometimes they go awyay quicker then othertimes. Sometimes having part of an orange or tangerine or clementine will stop them dead in their tracks - the down side of that is you have to account for the sugar in them. It does seem that I’ve been more prone to them the past couple of years. The main thing I try to do is stretch out those muscles. Yes - they can really really hurt.

If you have had a high blood sugar and have been drinking lots of water, you may not only have ended up being dehyrdated, but you may have also have caused an electrolyte imbalance. When you drink lots of water and then just have it come out the other end, it will leach out all kinds of things, sugar, potassium, sodium and magnesium. Even though you may rehydrate, you may well end up severely deficient in things like potassium. In fact, when they warn you against drinking too much water water (hypernatraemia), it is really this electrolyte problem that hurts you.

Take home message. If you drink large amounts of water, whether it be because of high blood sugar or just exercise, make sure you restore electrolytes. The best way to do this is to drink sugar free sports drinks that have a balanced electrolyte distribution. You can also make your own:

2qt Water
1 pack Sugar Free Kool Aid
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt substitute (potassium chloride)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tablet magnessium supplement crushed


I’ve noticed that my calves will cramp up and the pain is so severe. It usually happens the night when i’ve been high and i take quite abit of insulin to correct. When my blood drops suddenly back to normal i experience the cramps. Thankfully i haven’t had them in quite some time. I once got them while i was sleeping and my girlfriend at the time said i was almost screaming it hurt so bad.

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I’ve also had the foot cramps and hand to spin around in bed and put my feet on the wall… to straighten my toes