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Here’s how to relieve a charley horse

Have you ever experienced a charley horse? It’s a muscle spasm usually felt in your calves, although it can affect other areas too, that develops because of a rapidly firing nerve, causing your muscles to feel stiff, tight and painful.


The name may sound like that of a cartoon character, but it’s actually coined after a baseball player from the 1880s named Charley “Old Hoss” Radbourne, who experienced muscle cramps during baseball games.

So, what causes a charley horse to begin with? Some of the common reasons why it can occur include:

  • Hot weather
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Strenuous exercise
  • Impaired blood circulation in your legs
  • Dehydration
  • Being deficient in potassium, magnesium or calcium
  • Medicines like statins, blood pressure drugs, diuretics and some asthma drugs

A charley horse can happen even while you’re sleeping. The pain can be temporary and go away on its own, but if it’s not addressed right away, it can disrupt your sleep and daily activities.  So if you ever find yourself struggling with a charley horse, try these natural remedies to alleviate the pain:

  • Soak in an Epsom salt bath — You can achieve ideal results if you soak in the bath for 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Massage the affected muscle (instead of rubbing across it) — Massage the muscles from behind the knee downward to your heel if there’s discomfort on your calves.
  • Put weight on your foot and try to walk around — If you’re lying down and you experience pain, try to stand up, place weight on your foot and walk around. This will help blood to flow through your muscles and ease the cramp.

Another remedy suggested by Wisegeek is a mixture of citrus fruits and cream of tartar. Here’s how to do it:

“ … [Cut] up three small lemons, one small grapefruit, and two small oranges and place them in a blender, peels and all. After blending these together, add a teaspoon of cream of tartar and blend again. This mixture helps to relieve the stiffness associated with a charley horse. Two tablespoons of the mixture should be taken orally along with two tablespoons of water twice a day. Ideally, one dose should be taken in the morning and another should be taken before going to bed.”

You can also reduce your risk of getting a charley horse by:

  • Consuming potassium-rich foods like bananas, beet greens, avocados, spinach, broccoli and tomatoes
  • Drinking enough high-quality pure water, since a lack of it can cause your blood to thicken, circulate less often and trigger muscle cramps
  • Eating calcium-containing foods like homemade bone broth, organic grass fed dairy, nuts and seeds, while maintaining ideal levels of magnesium and vitamins D and K2

If you get a charley horse when you exercise, consider modifying your workout to make it less strenuous. Don’t forget to stretch properly before exercising. If you feel pain in your calf at the back of your lower leg, pull your toes and foot upward until you feel a stretch behind your leg. You can also do this sitting down with your legs outstretched. Put a towel around your feet and gently pull both ends toward you until you feel a stretch.

With these remedies and techniques, you’ll be able to heal a charley horse and get up and moving again in no time!

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