Causes & Cures for Charlie-Horse Leg Cramps

Causes & Cures for Charlie-Horse Leg Cramps
Causes & Cures for Charlie-Horse Leg Cramps (Image: Leonor Crossley)

If you've ever had a Charlie-horse leg cramp, you know just how painful it can be. There are some things one can do to avoid having this cramping on a regular basis.

What Is It?

A Charlie-horse is an extremely painful leg cramp that usually occurs on the back of the lower leg at the calf muscle. Basically, the cramping is caused by the muscle contracting suddenly and forcefully on its own for an extended period of time.


Some causes for cramping can be dehydration, circulation problems, not stretching properly before exercise, a sudden change in temperature, pregnancy, reaction to medication, straining of the muscle by overworking it, being hit on the muscle suddenly and a lack of sodium, potassium, magnesium or calcium.


Some ways to avoid cramping include drinking water, avoiding sudden strenuous activity if your body is not used to it, stretching before and after exercise and replenishing the electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium) lost from your body during sports or exercise by drinking energy drinks.


When a sudden attack of a Charlie-horse occurs, massage your calf muscle, slowly straighten your leg out and lift your toes to pull on the muscle and help relieve the pressure.

Nighttime Cramps

Many people get Charlie-horses while they are turning or stretching in bed at night. Applying heat to your leg before getting into bed may help prevent an attack. If the occurrence of Charlie-horses is often, an appointment should be made with a doctor.

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