"These leg cramps can cause distress, interrupted sleep, reduced quality of life and interference with activities of daily living," said study author Rod MacKinnon, a Nobel laureate and co-founder of Flex Pharma in Boston.

Currently, there are no approved treatments for nocturnal leg cramps, MacKinnon said.

The new treatment is based on research that shows cramps are caused by excessive firing of neurons in the spinal cord that control muscle contractions.

The treatment is designed to stop the firing of the neurons by stimulating the transient receptor potential (TRP) on channels. For the study, the researchers used an electrical neurostimulator to induce muscle cramps in the feet of 37 healthy people.

While half of the participants received the treatment other half received a placebo. When participants received the treatment, which was taken by mouth, their cramps were three times less intense than when they received the placebo.

The treatment showed the effect within minutes and lasted up to six to eight hours.

The findings are scheduled to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 67th Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, from April 18 to 25, 2015.

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