Charlie horse is an interesting term used to describe intensive and sudden muscle spasms that can affect several muscle groups. Athletes and people who work out regularly often suffer from charlie horse in the calf muscle of the leg.
Charlie horse in calf is characterized by sudden, excruciating pain that often occurs at night. The calf muscles suddenly contract, without any previous warning and the muscles become locked in a specific position. This intensely painful and frustrating condition fortunately does not last long, and when it is over, it passes completely without leaving any feeling of pain or discomfort.
Causes of charlie horse in calf
Calf muscles are used a lot during the day so it is logical that they are among the muscle groups commonly affected by charlie horse. This happens for a number of reasons.
One of the major causes for charlie horse, especially if it occurs at night, is the strenuous activity and physical strain during the day, usually due to sport activities. This type of charlie horse happens at night because the muscles finally get the chance to relax completely, which often leads to deep and intense muscle contractions.
This type of muscle spasm can also be caused by electrolyte and mineral imbalance in the body. This happens when the body does not replace the fluids lost for different reasons adequately. Low levels of potassium and calcium are known for causing muscle contractions. Severe dehydration and kidney disorders can also lead to charlie horse.
Charlie horse is very common in pregnancy, especially after physical activity.
Other causes can include nerve irritation, side effects of some medications and sport activities like swimming and kicking.
Treatment for charlie horse in calf
Charlie horse is usually very brief and goes away very soon, in most cases within few minutes, but since this condition is so painful, it is good to know tricks and tips to make it stop.
The first thing to do when a charlie horse occurs is to stretch the affected muscle, even though it may seem even more painful and even counterproductive. This is one of the best ways to get rid of the spasm. For spasms in calves, the best way to stretch them is to straighten the leg in the knee and to point the toes upwards and towards the shin as far as possible. If this does not help or if it is hard to do, massaging the muscle with fingers can help too.
In order to prevent charlie horses, it is very important to drink plenty of water. Dehydration is one of the major causes of charlie horses and keeping hydrated during and after the physical activity will greatly reduce the chance of their occurrence. It is also recommended to eat bananas and other foods rich in potassium.
There are also special sport drinks that replenish the electrolyte levels and also contain glucose, and they are highly recommended for athletes who frequently suffer from muscle spasms.