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How To Get Rid Of A Charley Horse (Leg Cramps) + Causes, Prevention Tips, And Diet

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How To Get Rid Of A Charley Horse (Leg Cramps) + Causes, Prevention Tips, And Diet June 29, 2018

Nobody knows why leg cramps are referred to as charley horses. However, some say that this condition is named after a baseball pitcher, Charley Radbourne (nicknamed Old Hoss), who suffered from it during a game in the 80s. Those frequent cramps in the muscles of your legs and calves that occur following varying triggers can all be termed as charley horses. Would you like to find natural ways to deal with this medical problem? Just keep reading to know how!

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What Is A Charley Horse?

Charley horse is just another name for muscle spasm that is marked by uncomfortable muscle contractions. It mostly occurs in the legs. Charley horses are mostly spasms in the calf muscles that occur particularly at night. When these muscle spasms do not stop for many seconds, it may result in severe pain.

This condition is identified by the onset of the following symptoms.

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Signs And Symptoms Of Charley Horses

The most common symptoms are:

  • Your muscles may tighten and pain.
  • The muscles may begin contracting, resulting in uncontrollable muscle spasms.
  • Although these spasms are often brief, they may sometimes last for several minutes.
  • Prolonged spasms can cause intense pain and discomfort.

Charley horses can be brief or last for several minutes, but no more than 10 minutes in most individuals. This condition is mostly infrequent, but frequent spasms might hint at an underlying health issue. A few factors that can be held responsible for causing a charley horse are discussed below.

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What Causes A Charley Horse?

The most common causes of a charley horse are:

  • Inadequate or poor blood flow to the muscles
  • Muscle injuries
  • Exercising in an extremely hot or cold environment
  • Overuse of specific muscles
  • Stress, especially in the neck muscles
  • Not warming up before exercises
  • A compressed nerve in the spine
  • Consumption of diuretics, which may lead to poor potassium levels
  • Deficiency of minerals like sodium, potassium, and calcium in the blood
  • Dehydration

A few factors can put you at a higher risk of developing a charley horse. They are discussed below.

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Risk Factors For Charley Horse

  • Activities that involve sports or athletics
  • Age – Infants and older adults are at a higher risk.
  • Obesity
  • Medications like diuretics or statins
  • Smoking tobacco

Before moving on to the natural remedies that can help in the treatment of a charley horse, here are some basic tips you can follow to obtain relief right after you experience a leg cramp.

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What To Do When You Get A Leg Cramp

When you experience a leg cramp, the following actions may provide immediate relief:

  • Stretch the cramped leg and massage it gently.
  • If you have a calf cramp, put your weight on the affected leg and bend your knee slightly.
  • If you can’t stand, sit on a chair or floor and stretch your leg.
  • Follow with the application of a heat or cold compress on the cramped muscles.

Although these steps may provide relief, they are not permanent cures. Hence, you can give any one or a combination of the following remedies a shot for combating charley horse successfully.

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How To Fix A Charley Horse Naturally

  1. Foot Massage
  2. Pickle Juice
  3. Epsom Salt Bath
  4. Vitamins
  5. Essential Oil
  6. Bar Of Soap
  7. Heat Or Ice
  8. Apple Cider Vinegar
  9. Turmeric
  10. Cinnamon
  11. Honey
  12. Baking Soda

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Home Remedies To Stop Charlie Horses

1. Foot Massage

1. Foot Massage Pinit

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You Will Need

Coconut or olive oil (optional)

What You Have To Do
  1. Stretch your affected leg to its maximum.
  2. Flex your foot towards your knee.
  3. You can also grab your toes and gently flex them towards your knee.
  4. Massage the affected muscles on the stretched leg with or without the oil.
  5. Take a warm bath.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this whenever you experience leg cramps.

Why This Works

Stretching and massaging the cramped muscles can help relax them. This also enhances blood flow to the affected region and offers quick relief from a charley horse (1).

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2. Pickle Juice

You Will Need

2-3 ounces of pickle juice

What You Have To Do

Consume pickle juice.

How Often You Should Do This

You must do this until the symptoms disappear completely.

Why This Works

Pickle juice is packed with minerals like potassium, sodium, magnesium, and calcium. Leg cramps can be caused due to a deficiency in these electrolytes, and intake of pickle juice helps in restoring their levels (2).

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3. Epsom Salt Bath

3. Epsom Salt Bath Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 1 cup of Epsom salt
  • Water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add a cup of Epsom salt to a tub of water.
  2. Soak in this for about 15 to 20 minutes.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this once daily or every alternate day.

Why This Works

As you are aware, magnesium deficiency is responsible for recurring charley horses. Soaking in an Epsom salt bath replenishes the magnesium levels in your body, which, in turn, reduces the inflammation and pain associated with leg cramps (3).

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4. Vitamins

4. Vitamins Pinit

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Your body requires various vitamins and minerals to function properly. Vitamins B complex and D are believed to work wonders for muscle cramps. In fact, a study has concluded that intake of B complex vitamin reduced muscle cramps in about 86% of the patients (4). Low vitamin D levels in your blood can also trigger muscle cramps (5).

Thus, it is important to consume foods rich in these vitamins like meat, eggs, dairy products, whole grains, and green leafy veggies.

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5. Lavender Oil

5. Lavender Oil Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 6 drops of lavender oil
  • 1 teaspoon of coconut oil
What You Have To Do
  1. Mix six drops of lavender oil with a teaspoon of coconut oil.
  2. Apply it to the cramped muscles and massage gently.
How Often You Should Do This

You must do this right after you experience a leg cramp.

Why This Works

The very aroma of lavender calms you down and soothes your anxiety (6). This, in turn, helps in relaxing your muscles. Also, the anti-inflammatory and analgesic activities of lavender oil help relieve inflammation, swelling, and pain in the affected area (7).

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6. A Bar Of Soap

6. A Bar Of Soap Pinit

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You Will Need

A small bar of soap

What You Have To Do
  1. Before going to sleep, slip a small bar of soap under the covers, preferably near your feet.
  2. Take the soap out the following morning.
How Often You Should Do This

You must do this every night.

Why This Works

Although there is no scientific evidence for this remedy, many individuals affected by charley horse or leg cramps swear by this. It is believed that placing a bar of soap underneath your sheets, near your feet, can provide relief from charley horses in due course of time.

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7. Heat Or Ice

7. Heat Or Ice Pinit

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You Will Need

A hot or cold pack

What You Have To Do
  1. Stretch the affected leg.
  2. Apply a hot or cold pack to the cramped muscles.
  3. Leave it on for 2 to 3 minutes and then remove it.
  4. Repeat thrice.
How Often You Should Do This

You should do this whenever you are affected by a charley horse.

Why This Works

A hot pack increases blood circulation to the affected area, providing immediate relief from cramps. Whereas, a cold pack can numb the pain and reduce swelling (if any) (8).

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8. Apple Cider Vinegar

8. Apple Cider Vinegar Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
  • 1 glass of warm water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar and a teaspoon of honey to a glass of warm water.
  2. Mix well and consume.
How Often You Should Do This

You must do this once daily.

Why This Works

Apple cider vinegar is packed with nutrients like calcium and potassium. Since leg cramps are often caused due to mineral deficiency, restoring the lost minerals by consuming ACV can offer relief from this condition (9).

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9. Turmeric

9. Turmeric Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 1 tablespoon of turmeric powder
  • Coconut oil (as required)
What You Have To Do
  1. Take a tablespoon of turmeric powder and add a little coconut oil to it.
  2. Apply the turmeric-coconut oil paste to the affected muscles and massage gently.
  3. Leave it on for about 30 minutes before washing it off.
  4. You can also mix a teaspoon of turmeric powder in a glass of hot milk and consume daily.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this whenever the leg cramp strikes for immediate relief.

Why This Works

Turmeric contains curcumin, which is an anti-inflammatory compound. The topical application, as well as consumption, of turmeric can help reduce the inflammation, pain, and swelling associated with a charley horse (10).

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10. Cinnamon

10. Cinnamon Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
  • ½ cup of warm water
What You Have To Do
  1. Mix a teaspoon each of cinnamon powder and honey in a glass of warm water.
  2. Consume this concoction.
How Often You Should Do This

Consume this mixture twice daily, preferably every morning and evening.

Why This Works

Cinnamon is a multifaceted medicinal plant with a wide range of benefits. Given its anti-inflammatory properties, it is no surprise that cinnamon can work well in relieving muscle soreness and leg cramps (11).

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11. Honey

11. Honey Pinit

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You Will Need

2 teaspoons of honey

What You Have To Do
  1. Consume two teaspoons of honey daily.
  2. You can also mix honey with sunflower seeds or apple cider vinegar for additional benefits.
How Often You Should Do This

You must do this once daily.

Why This Works

Honey has powerful anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties that can soothe the inflammation and pain that accompany leg cramps (12).

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12. Baking Soda

12. Baking Soda Pinit

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You Will Need
  • ¼ teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 glass of water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add one-fourth teaspoon of baking soda to a glass of water.
  2. Mix well and consume immediately.
How Often You Should Do This

You must drink this right after you get a leg cramp.

Why This Works

Baking soda is also known as sodium bicarbonate. Sodium deficiency can also be a possible trigger of your leg cramp. The intake of baking soda restores the lost sodium in your body and helps you get rid of a charley horse (13).

You must also make some changes to your diet to combat recurrent leg cramps. Following the diet tips that are given below can help you recover faster from a charley horse.

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Diet Tips

Foods that can help you fight charley horses are:

  • Sodium-rich foods like cheese, beetroot, celery, carrots, meat, and fish.
  • Potassium-rich foods like melons, citrus fruits, bananas, avocados, and dairy.
  • Foods containing calcium like sardines, salmons, leafy vegetables, nuts, and tofu.
  • Magnesium-containing foods like legumes, soybeans, pumpkin seeds, cocoa, dark chocolate, dried fruits, and yogurt.

Since deficiency in minerals is one of the leading causes of charley horses or leg cramps, following these diet tips ought to help.

There are also a few additional tips you must incorporate into your daily life to prevent the recurrence of this condition.

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Prevention Tips For Leg Cramps

  • Stretch before and after doing intense exercises.
  • Do not strain the same muscles on consecutive days while exercising.
  • Do not exercise in severe weather conditions.
  • Keep yourself hydrated by drinking enough water throughout the day.
  • Drink electrolyte-rich sports drinks like Gatorade.
  • Stretch before bedtime.
  • Indulge in yoga exercises that require stretching like the Cobbler Pose, Stick Pose, Palm Tree Pose, etc.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Avoid consuming caffeinated drinks and drugs.

The remedies discussed here will only exhibit their full potential if you lead a healthy lifestyle as well. So, keep that in mind if you wish to achieve permanent relief from your leg cramps.

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Do you use any other remedies to get rid of a charley horse? Let us know how they worked for you in the comments section below.

Expert’s Answers for Readers Questions

When should I call the doctor for a charley horse?

You must see a doctor for a charley horse if:

  • there is a swelling in the leg
  • you are suffering from severe pain
  • there are skin discolorations

Is charley horse a sign of early pregnancy?

Leg cramps or charley horses are quite common during pregnancy, especially in the third trimester.

Is charley horse a sign of a blood clot?

Charley horses are usually a symptom of a medical condition called deep vein thrombosis. This is often a result of a blood clot in one of the deep veins of your body.

How long does a charley horse last?

Charley horses usually last for a few seconds. However, in some individuals, they may last for a few minutes – but not more than 10 minutes.

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