You jolt awake in the middle of the night, woken up by an excruciating cramp in your calf muscle. It takes you several minutes to massage the cramp away, and even after several hours of sleep, the muscle is sore and tender in the morning.
Many refer to this kind of involuntary, tight cramp as a "charley horse." Charley horses most commonly occur in the calf, but severe cramping can happen in just about any muscle. While these cramps are seemingly random, they may leave you wondering how you can put an end to them. What causes these painful cramps, and how can you keep them from happening? Causes
Charley horses can be caused by a number of situations and issues, such as:
- Pushing too hard during exercise
- Overexerting the body in fairly high or low temperatures
- Failing to stretch adequately before physical activity
- A lack of potassium, sodium, or magnesium in the body
- A calcium deficiency during pregnancy
- Poor blood flow in the muscle
- Muscle fatigue
- Muscle injury
- Excess stress, leading to tightness in neck and shoulder muscles
- A compressed spinal nerve
A charley horse can strike any time during the night or day. And while anyone can experience a charley horse, the people most at risk for painful cramping include obese individuals, those who smoke, older adults, infants, athletes, and individuals that take medications that contribute to nutrient deficiencies and dehydration.
To prevent charley horses, be sure to regularly drink water or drinks with electrolytes and to stretch properly before exercise. Try not to exercise the same muscles two days in a row, and avoid working out in very hot or cold temperatures.
If you often get charley horses in the middle of the night, consider stretching thoroughly before getting in bed. You may want to try eating magnesium-, potassium-, and calcium-rich foods as well.
Even if you take proper prevention steps, you can still experience a charley horse. When you're experiencing severe muscle cramping, try: Stretching the muscle slowly
- Massaging the affected area
- Bathing with Epsom salt in the water
- Heating the muscle
- Icing the muscle
If you're still experiencing frequent charley horses after exercising prevention practices, turn to the Sheen Vein Institute. We offer charley horse treatment to eliminate painful muscle cramping so you can get back to enjoying your favorite activities.
Schedule an appointment with our capable team in St. Louis, MO. Message us through our contact form, and one of our friendly staff members will get back to you as soon as possible.