Leg cramps are painful contractions in the leg muscles, both at the back and the front of the leg. It usually occurs at night and lasts from seconds to many minutes. Besides the leg, the cramp may also occur in the foot and thigh. The cramps can be caused by diseases of the nervous system, but more often they come as a result of physical or mental stress. Some people experience such ailments after they have practiced or been in physical activity. Many are also bothered with tingling in their bones.1

What’s on this page:

Leg cramps are a very common condition. But can be reduced in occurrence with proper treatment, some of the more popular medicine called quinine sulphate.

In this article, we take into account how Quinine helps to reduce the symptoms of leg cramps.

What caused leg cramps?

In most cases, the cause is unknown. However, there are some conditions or illnesses that make you more vulnerable to such ailments:

  • pregnancy
  • Prolonged sitting, inappropriate positioning of the legs in rest, or living or working on concrete floors
  • Hard physical exercise
  • Fluid loss, for example, by using a diuretic or after sweating
  • varicose veins
  • atherosclerosis
  • Diabetes (types 1 and 2)
  • Neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, myopathies, neuropathies, radio copies and ALS
    metabolic disorder

Some drugs may cause leg cramps as a side effect, such as:

  • diuretic
  • nifedipine
  • Beta-agonists
  • corticosteroids
  • morphine
  • cimetidine
  • Pencillamin
  • statins
  • lithium
  • Leg cramps occur more frequently during and after physical exertions.


The cramp often occurs at night or when you rest. Muscle contractions can be experienced as a pain in the leg and last from a few seconds to 10 minutes. The leg muscles may feel sore for up to 24 hours after the cramp.

Other symptoms may be:

  • Suddenly intrusive
  • Partly severe painful contractions in the leg muscles
  • Seizures (most common at night)
  • May occur both from awake and during sleep

Quinine sulphate for the treatment of leg cramps

Quinine should only be considered when seizures cause regular sleep disturbance. Taking kinin is usually only recommended if other treatments (such as stretching exercises and massage of the affected muscles) have been tried first and have not been successful. Quinine has been used in Britain for the treatment of leg cramps at night for many years. Although the patient response may vary, overall effectiveness is modest.2

Quinine is used, for example, in people with diabetes or varicose veins. It is thought to prevent muscle cramps by reducing the sensitivity of muscle cells to stimuli that causes them to contract, as well as prolong the time it takes for the muscle to contract. Quinine tends to reduce the number and severity of leg cramps, but can not completely stop them.

Once the Quinine is prescribed, it will be given to you in a few weeks, as it may take a long time for you to start to feel the benefit of this medicine. You can rate how well Quinine works for you by keeping a cramp diary.

Quinine side effects

Quinine can sometimes cause side effects (some of these may be very serious) so you should also check for the unwanted effects it may have on you. If yourQuinine helps you, you may be asked to continue with it for a few months. However, you should consider stopping the quinine every three months or so. This is because in some people cramps go away and therefore treatment can no longer be necessary.

Some known side effects include:

  • Rash
  • Nausea
  • Feeling of ringing, or other noise in the ears s (tinnitus)
  • Headache
  • Visual disturbances, such as blurred vision, problems with color vision and impaired field of vision
  • Low blood sugar levels (hypoglycaemia).
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Diarrhoea
  • Kidney failure.

Quinine sulphate contraindications

All substances work differently from person to person. You should check all possible interactions with your doctor before starting any medicine. You should not use this medicine at:

  • pregnancy
  • breastfeeding
  • low blood sugar
  • low amount of potassium in the blood
  • Syndrome characterized by anemia and renal failure
  • Reduced blood pills
  • Myasthenia Gravis
  • Nerve function blockage that affects normal muscle function
  • Sudden blindness and pain by moving the eye
  • Very fast heartbeat – Torsades de Pointes
  • atrial fibrillation
  • Slow heartbeat

There may be a risk of abnormal heart rhythm if your chinin is taken in combination with any of the following medicines:

  • medicines for abnormal heartbeat, eg amiodarone, quinidine
    antihistamines terfenadine and astemizole
  • artemeter with lumefantrine
  • citalopram
  • droperidol
  • escitalopram
  • mefloquine
  • moxifloxacin

Can I buy Quinine sulphate online in the UK?

You can buy this medicine from an online clinic. But first you need to fill out a medical form, then get medical advice if you are fit for treatment. Your doctor will then review your form to ensure that the product is suitable for you. Once approved, the order generates an electronic prescription received by their co-operating pharmacy. The drug will then be dispensed and packed for delivery to the doorstep.

Note that this medicine is not sold without a prescription in Norway, so it is important to be aware of websites selling this medicine without the need for a prescription. These drugs may contain illegal substances that may be dangerous to you and your health.

If you are taking other medicines and are not sure if this medicine will work negatively with other means you use, always provide such information through the consultation method you choose.


  1. Causes – NHS
  2. Patientinfo – Patient Info