That painful feeling in your legs is probably due to the Charlie horse cramps. Find out information on causes, symptoms and treatments of Charlie horse.

Charlie Horse Cramps

If you have a muscular contraction in your legs that is sudden and you feel immense pain in your legs, then it's probably charlie horse cramps—the name by which such leg cramps are known in North America . The unique name is most likely because of its oft occurrence in sports such as football when the athlete is struck by the opponent’s knee (like the kick of a horse). The spasm can last from a few seconds to a few hours. In the United Kingdom, it is popularly known by the terms ‘deadleg’ or ‘chopper’. In Australia, it is referred to as ‘corked thigh’. There are several other causes for a Charlie horse cramp such as low levels of potassium, dehydration or even some side effects of medications. The cramp should not be ignored as it could also be an end result of a more serious complication. Read on more to find out how you can avoid these muscular pulls and how you can identify them.
Charlie Horse Leg Cramps

  • Calf (muscles crossing the knee and ankle)
  • Hamstring (muscles crossing the knee and hip)
  • Quadriceps (muscles crossing the knee and hips also)
  • Foot (muscles crossing the ankle and toes)
  • Thigh (femur muscles)
  • Stress
  • Heavy exercising
  • Dehydration
  • Obesity and sometimes even overweight
  • Electrolyte imbalance such as potassium and calcium
  • Improper hormonal secretions
  • Medications such as statins, prednisone etc.
  • Diseases such as sclerosis and neuropathy
  • Pregnancy and old age
  • Oxygen depletion from muscles
  • Extreme temperatures
  • Sitting or standing the same position for a long time
  • Staying hydrated is related to lessening of leg cramps. The exact nature of the relationship has not been found yet. Drinking three full glasses of water each time, before and after exercise is highly beneficial. Since there are no side effects of water, there is no harm in consuming a little more. Drink water before bedtime too gives the body enough replenishment till you wake up. Water is especially essential in warm and dry climates.
  • Stretching before you start vigorous exercise helps your muscle fibres relax. Warm ups are as essential as the workout itself. This prevents cramps and relaxes the muscles. Cooling down after the regime just prior to sleeping calms your system down and brings breathing back to normal by restoring the oxygen.
  • There is a “10% rule” that says never increase your exercise program by more than 10% at a time. Gradually increasing it, over a period of a week is more suitable. Sudden changes in activity might also lead to leg cramps.
Possible Treatment
  • The biggest question when it comes to treating a cramp is – Ice or heat?
  • It is suggested that heat treatment is used before activities and on areas that are possible places of injury. They can ease muscle strains and loosen tissues and most of all relax the injured area.
  • Ice packs are used when there is an injury such as ankle twists or shin splits. Ice packs control inflammation. Applying ice for more than 20 minutes is not recommended otherwise it might lead to frostbite!
  • Rubbing the area with your bare hands (heat inducing) and an ointment can also prove helpful as it restores circulation.
  • Analgesic medications in extreme cases are sought too.
Even after all these treatments for a Charlie horse cramp does not facilitate regular activity, then it is best you visit a doctor.

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