Ask the Doctor: ankle cramping, extreme pain & night sweats

Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 12:45 PM EST
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(WNDU) - Dr. Bob Cassady from the South Bend Clinic joins us every week to answer your medical questions.

Question #1 from Debbie: “What is good to use on feet and ankles for cramping?”

DR. BOB: For all three of our questions today, it is tough to answer how to treat a symptom when we don’t know what the cause of the symptom is. So, I’ll be repeating myself a little bit.

For ankle cramping, common causes would include muscle aches or fatigue, joint problems such as arthritis, or a sprain. Less commonly, it could be caused by narrowed blood vessels.

For muscle or joint problems, typically heat or ice, massage, or over-the-counter pain medicines such as Tylenol should help. However, these treatments would not help other more serious causes, like narrowed blood vessels.

So, if you are trying heat and Tylenol and it isn’t improving, it would be reasonable to have an evaluation done to see if something else is the cause.

Question #2 from Laura: “What over-the-counter is stronger than Tylenol for extreme pain?”

DR. BOB: Again, we need to have some idea of what is causing the extreme pain before we can decide if an over-the-counter pain medicine is going to help.

If you have extreme pain from an appendicitis or heart attack, pain medicines typically will not do a lot. However, if the pain is related to a muscle strain or joint sprain, medicines like ibuprofen or Motrin are typically better than Tylenol.

These medicines belong to a class of drugs called non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. Some interesting studies have shown that they are very effective are treating pain. Because of the opioid crisis, we are trying to find non-narcotic methods of treating pain.

Some studies from the emergency room have shown that NSAIDs are effective at treating pain from a broken bone. The only issue is that chronic use of NSAIDs increases risk for kidney disease, heart disease, and ulcers.

Question #3 from Barb: “I have horrible night sweats, it’s actually all night long. I have to change my pajamas at least three times a night. What can be done to make it stop?”

DR. BOB: Night sweats can be due to multiple problems, and we treat the problems differently.

They can be due to very simple things, like a problem with the temperature being too high in the house. Or they can be due to menopause and hot flashes. Rarely, they can be due to an infection or cancer.

If you have persistent night sweats that soak your pajamas, I recommend having an evaluation done by your doctor to make sure no serious problems are causing them. If not, your doctor may be able to recommend a medicine to help with menopausal hot flashes.

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