Charlie horse is a colloquial term used popularly in North America for muscle spasm or cramp, especially leg cramps. The most prominent area affected is calf muscles, though it can occur in any other muscles. It is an uncontrolled contraction of calf muscles. With contraction there is sharp, shooting pain in the affected muscle making movement of the leg difficult.
Most cases of Charlie horse occur at night, this means when you are sleeping. It is also common when a person is exercising or while he is playing. Not only the calf muscles, but many times hamstring and back muscles also contract.
What Causes Charlie Horse Cramp In Calf Muscle?
Often people want to know why they suffer from Charlie horse in their calf muscles.
- In most cases, Charlie horse in calf is a late response of strained calf muscles. It can be caused while exercising or over use of muscles. Minor injury to calf muscles can also prompt its contraction and spasm.
- It can be caused as a result of electrolyte imbalance in the body. Especially lack of potassium in body triggers spasm of muscles.
- Most of the time, the spasm of calf muscle strikes when you are sleeping or lying down in bed.
- You may not realize that the activities that you do during the day may be strenuous and tough. But it’s after effect is felt late at night in the form of painful calf muscle spasm. For example, wearing high heeled shoes, kicking your legs while swimming, pointing your toes forward can result in night time calf muscle contraction.
- Improper blood circulation in calf muscles due to vascular disease.
- Herniation of spinal disc may irritate the spinal nerve that is connecting the calf muscle.
Home Remedies For Charlie Horse Leg Cramps
- As you experience the pain and cramp in calf muscle, stop all your activities and relax. Try to gently stretch your leg and flex your foot. In most cases, the pain and spasm subsides after few minutes.
- Also do gentle massage on the affected calf muscle. While massaging, see that you rub along the muscle and not across the muscle. Rub behind the knee towards the heel.
- Apply heat to the calf muscle. Heat relaxes the strained muscles. It also improves blood circulation in that area.
- Another useful home remedy to reduce pain and relieve spasm is to soak the affected leg in a bucket or a tub containing warm water. Add Epsom salt in water, its curative effect will increase many fold. Soak your leg and the calf area for 30 minutes in it.
- If the cramp occurs while you are doing exercise or some strenuous work, stop that work and drink a glass of lemon juice immediately. If sports drink is available at that time, you can also drink it to keep your body well hydrated.
How To Prevent Charlie Horses In Calves?
Prevention of Charlie horse in first place is always possible if you follow certain tips, such as;
- Stretch your legs regularly. It helps in relaxing muscle fibers and also improves its flexibility.
- Do not over strain while you are exercising or doing laborious hard work.
- Eat potassium rich food daily. Bananas, orange juice are good source of potassium.
- Stay well hydrated. Drink at least 8 glasses of water in a day. If you are sweating profusely during the day, you can drink more water or sport drinks to replenish the lost electrolytes.
- Avoid pointing your toe while sleeping.
- Eat vitamins and mineral containing food.