I have had really bad leg cramps for a long time.
Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I jump out of bed screaming at the top of my lungs. Then I brace myself against the side of the headboard and push down on the ball of my foot, which shakes the entire bed. One night, I almost woke up my wife.
When you’re as old as I am and you want compassion, you need to limit your friends to those with an AARP card. Recently I shared an elevator ride with a young man who had been an intern at WISH-TV. He asked me, “So how are you doing, Mr. Wolfsie?”
“Oh, OK I guess, Todd. But I get these terrible leg cramps at night….”
“Well, have a nice day. See ya.”
On the way back down in the elevator, I saw an old friend, a man of my own vintage. “Hey, Dick, how ya been?”
“Fine, Joel, except at night I have this problem where…”
“Don’t tell me — leg cramps. I used to get them, also. Here’s what I recommend: Take Vitamin E three times a day. It’s like a miracle.”
I’ve never trusted the internet for health information, but I am inclined to take advice in an elevator. So, I called my doctor to ask his opinion. He told me that Vitamin E was not good for me because of an interaction with my cholesterol medication.
Then he asked me exactly where I had gotten this advice. I told him the 14th floor of the Chase building. He said that for my health, I should start taking the stairs.
The next week, in the same elevator, I ran into another old buddy. “Hey, Dick, word is out you are having leg cramps.”
“Wow, Arnold, word sure travels up and down fast in this building.”
“My dad started having leg cramps, so he drank a gin and tonic every night before he went to bed — and he never had cramps again.”
“What did the trick, the gin or the tonic?”
I did some Googling and found that the gin helps you forget your pain, but it was probably the quinine in the tonic that really eased the cramps. For the next two weeks, I drank a bottle of tonic water before bed. It had little effect on the problem, so now I’m willing to at least consider the therapeutic benefits of straight Tanqueray.
Over the course of the last month, I asked several friends, a few doctors and even my good buddy Wendell Fowler, the nutritionist guru in Indy, about any possible remedies for my ailment.
Here, in no particular order, are just a few of the other so-called cures people swear by: magnesium, zinc, turmeric, potassium, vitamin C, acupuncture, biofeedback, folic acid, calcium, fiber pills, cauliflower extract and yoga.
I decided I would not depend on anecdotal evidence anymore, but then I was in Macy’s recently and saw another old buddy who shared my problem.
“Look, Dick,” he told me, “this sounds really odd but I put a bar of soap under the fitted sheet of my bed, and that relieves my cramps.” Normally, I’d have ignored this totally crazy idea, but I have to tell you…you can get some really good advice on an escalator.
Television personality Dick Wolfsie writes this weekly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to email@example.com.