If you’ve ever felt the excruciating pain of a Charlie horse, you’ll want to know how to get rid of them should one ever come around again – or prevent them from happening in the first place.
Read on to learn what causes them and some simple techniques to get you through them.
Charlie horses are painful spasmodic leg cramps that may occur spontaneously at night or after a strenuous workout for any number of reasons. The pain is brutal and may last for a few minutes or hours, depending on the trigger.
Typical causes include overexertion of muscles without proper stretching or warming up ahead of time; sudden activity after a long bout of inactivity; poor blood circulation (common in pregnant women); dehydration; low levels of vitamin E, potassium, magnesium or calcium in the body; adverse reactions to prescription medicines; calcium buildup or misplacement in the body; and brain damage.
The most likely reason is muscle strain or overexertion. That’s why it’s very important that you stretch before and after any physical activity and exercise, that you use proper form whenever possible and that you drink water before, during and after exercise. These three things alone will ward off Charlie horses the majority of the time.
How to Get Rid of Charlie Horses
We cannot always prevent Charlie horses from creeping up on us, so here are some of the things you can do when they do attack:
What to Do
- Apply ice to the muscle. Cold temperatures will shock the muscle and stop the blood in your leg from rushing to that one spot, which should lessen pain and swelling.
- Stretch and move. Slowly and gently bend the affected leg, bringing your heel up toward your rear end. Hold this position for a few seconds and stretch your leg back out. Even standing and walking can help get the kinks out. Be careful, though, as sudden movements can make the pain and spasms worse.
- Massage and compress muscles. Applying pressure and massage loosens up knotted muscles and eases the pain.
- Elevate your legs. This helps blood to flow away from the affected area and back up toward the heart. Just be sure to keep your leg in a bent-at-the-knee position, if possible.
- Add nutrient power. As a method of prevention so you’re less likely to have Charlie horses in the future, be sure that you are getting your daily requirement of vitamin E, magnesium, potassium and calcium. Vitamin E is especially helpful if you frequently get Charlie horses at night, while magnesium helps to lower the frequency of the spasms altogether.
- Drink more water. Enough said.
What NOT to Do
- Do not apply heat. Heat only makes it worse. Heat causes the blood to zero in on the spot where heat is placed, which is pretty much what caused the Charlie horse to happen initially. Heat also encourages swelling.