A charley horse is a muscle spasm that occurs mostly in the leg, particularly the calf. The muscle contracts involuntarily and can not relax. Normally the pain is sudden and it can be excruciating. It can happen while being active or in the middle of the night when sleeping. The exact cause is unknown.
Dehydration, a hormonal or electrolyte imbalance, insufficient stretching before exercise and an overused muscle may contribute to the problem. Normally it will resolve on its own after a few seconds or minutes. The following charley horse treatments can help prevent one from occurring and help provide relief during an attack.
Treatment to help prevent a charley horse:
• Stay well hydrated. Drink plenty of water throughout the day and while exercising. Avoid beverages that can dehydrate the body such as coffee, black tea, sodas and alcohol.
• Prevent an electrolyte imbalance by eating a nutritious and well-balanced diet. Before working out, eat a banana or drink a glass of orange juice. Drink sports beverages or coconut water, also known as nature’s sports drink, when exercising and sweating a lot.
• Stretch for about 10 minutes before and after workouts. Even on days when you do not workout, spend a few minutes stretching your muscles.
• Decrease your exercise activity if you feel you may be overdoing it and gradually increase it over time.
Treatment to help relieve pain from a charley horse:
• If a charley horse happens when active, stop what you are doing and gently stretch the affected muscle until it resolves. Stand next to a wall, about three to five feet away from it with your legs straight and your heels flat. Place your hands on the wall, lean into it and hold your position for about ten seconds. After repeating a few times, you should feel some relief. If you are not near a wall, flex your foot.
• If the spasm occurs when lying down, put some weight on the muscle by standing up and walking.
• Loosen the tight muscle with a massage. Elevate your leg to allow blood to flow away from your limb and toward your heart. Massage the muscle but be sure you rub in the direction the muscle runs and not across it. If the charley horse is in your calf, start near the ankle and work your way up to the knee. If you are bothered by night spasms often, massage your muscle before going to bed to help prevent one from occurring.
• Avoid applying heat. Although this helps many muscle aches, it is not recommended for a charley horse because it increases blood flow to the site which could make the problem worse.
If the above charley horse treatments do not work, consult your health care provider.
Medline Plus: Charley horse - https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002066.htm
Medicine Net: Muscle Cramp: A Real Pain - https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=47633
Mother Nature: Charley Horse - https://www.mothernature.com/Library/Bookshelf/Books/48/39.cfm
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