An alarmed woman sits up in bed to examine her cramping leg.

Leg Cramps from Hepatitis C

You are lying in bed, sleeping like a log and then you feel the jolt start in your toe. It feels like a vise is gripping and then twisting your foot. They spring into odd positions and you quickly move in an effort to stretch it out. Sometimes that works, and you go back to sleep. Other times, the twisting, wrench-like feeling tightens up as it crawls toward your calf. It’s called a leg cramp–and often these leg cramps are rooted in side effects from hepatitis C.

I don’t really think of it as a cramp. Being a woman who has given childbirth, I refer to it as a contraction; except, it’s worse than any contraction during labor. I didn’t cry out in labor. I moan and groan during long leg cramps. It’s hard.

They may seem worse because they usually happen at night. It’s lonely to be awake and sleepless and held prisoner to your own twisted-up muscles in the night. You better believe I have the best workaround list in the world.

Managing leg cramps from hepatitis C

1. Don't panic

Stay calm and follow steps in a logical sequence. Your adrenaline hits and can make you a little crazy. Try to establish the following routine. Ask a caregiver to help you.

2. Stay hydrated

Drink lots of water throughout the day and keep a large glass by your bed. The minute it hits, start drinking. I’m talking 12 ounces in one shot. It helps- Believe me.

3. Consider some magnesium

If your doctor approves, take magnesium at bedtime. A powdered blend is easy and also helps to relax your entire body. Keep magnesium to rub on your muscles before bed and during a cramp. While you can use it all day, keep it beside your bed for those emergencies. Rub it in with hard strokes. Use the heel of your hand to smooth out the cramp. Pull on your toes, massaging and twisting them with the magnesium oil or gel.

4. Keep a few salty snacks beside the bed

I know this is contrary to advice for ascites, but a sodium deficiency in your blood can spur on cramping. You are probably in a panic if the pain is lingering. Sit up and chew the chips or crackers fully. Then wash them down with lots of water. I have gotten them lodged in my throat more than once because of varices in my esophagus.

5. Take a vitamin that contains minerals

Your doctor can help you make the choice of which one is right for you. Leg cramps from hepatitis C are a mystery, but seems to be related to mineral deficit.

6. Stretch

Before bed, do leg stretches. Standing beside your bed, stand up on your tip toes. Raise and lower your heels several times. Pull your heel up toward your butt and hold it there for a few seconds. Do this with each leg. Lie down and raise your feet in the air. Make circles to the right several times. Next, rotate to the left. Stretch your toes out wide and then try to make a fist with your foot.

7. Breath

Take deep breaths as you fall asleep. Inhale and exhale slowly. Train yourself to count to 8 on the inhale and count to 10 on the exhale. Do the same thing during a leg cramp to help get oxygen to the muscle.

These tips can help you survive even the worst leg cramps from hepatitis C, and isn’t that what living with liver disease and hepatitis C is all about? Being prepared for, and survivingm the rough spots. We do it together.

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