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Muscle Cramps

Are there medications to prevent muscle cramps?

In recent times, the only medication that has been widely used to prevent, and sometimes also to treat, cramps is quinine. Quinine has been used for years in the treatment of malaria. Quinine acts by decreasing the excitability of the muscles. It has also been shown to be effective in many, but not all, scientific studies. However, quinine also causes birth defects and miscarriages as well as serious side effects. It has also occasionally caused hypersensitivity reactions and a deficiency of platelets, which are the blood components responsible for clotting. Either of these reactions can be fatal. Quinine is also associated with a cluster of symptoms called cinchonism (nausea, vomiting, headaches, and deafness). Additionally, vision and heart irregularities can occur. Consequently, quinine tablets are not available in the United States. Quinine is available in grocery stores in tonic water. The U.S. FDA does not recommend or endorse the use of quinine to treat or prevent muscle cramps. Nevertheless, quinine is sometimes recommended as quinine water (tonic water) prior to bedtime to prevent night muscle cramps. Always consult your health care professional before taking quinine for cramps.

Reviewed on 6/14/2017
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