Charlie Horse (Leg Cramps) in Women: Causes, Remedies and Prevention Tips

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Muscle spasm also known as Charley horse becomes a muscle cramp if it prolongs. They’re more common in legs and cause uncomfortable contractions in the leg muscles. This turns into a severe pain, if the muscles that are contracted don’t relax for more than a few seconds. This severe pain, in turn, causes muscle soreness which usually lasts for hours to a day.

Muscle spasm is a normal once in a while condition which many people experience occasionally. For some, an intense muscle spasm becomes a leg cramp which is a bothersome pain. People experiencing very frequent muscle spasms must look out because it can have a cause of an underlying health condition in some cases. However, Charley horses are often treated with home remedies. Here are the causes, remedies and prevention tips to get a relief from Charley horse.

Read More: 11 Ways to Deal With Leg Cramps in Pregnancy

A Guide for Charley Horse (Leg Cramps) in Women

charlie horse

Common Causes of Charley Horse in Women

  • Muscle injuries
  • Not warming up before exercise and not stretching after exercise
  • Low potassium levels
  • Insufficient blood flow to the muscle
  • Overuse of muscle during exercise or over workout
  • Stress in the muscles
  • Exercising in extreme cold or heat
  • Diuretics intake
  • Poor Sodium levels
  • Low Calcium content in the blood
  • Dehydration
  • Bad sleeping position for a long time

Some people deal with muscle spasms in the middle of the night which wakes them up during their sleeping hours. The cause for midnight spasms is not found yet, but it is believed that the bad sleeping position for a long time may take the blame. Obese people are more likely to encounter occasional Charley horses because of the poor circulation in their legs due to obesity.

Read More: 9 Effective Ways to Relieve Leg Cramps During Pregnancy

Remedies of Charley Horse in Women

Stretching

The following three stretches thrice a day for 10 seconds each help a lot to get away with Charley Horse or leg cramps:

  • Standing calf stretch

Stand to face the wall, lift and extend your arms to the chest height. Place your palms on the wall and move your right leg forward by flexing the knee. Keep your left leg straight behind and lean forward in this position. Repeat with the other side.

standing calf stretch

  • Hamstring Standing Stretch

Place the back of a chair against the wall and stand in front of it. Put your right heel on chair making sure that your leg is straight. Now, bend forward at your hips keeping a straight posture while using your left leg to balance by keeping in firm on the floor. Repeat with the other leg.

standing hamstring stretch

  • Seated Calf and Hamstring Stretch

Sit on the floor and extend both the legs forward keeping a straight back. Now, bend at the hips and stretch forward to hold onto your toes or calves, whichever is comfortable.

seated calf and hamstring stretch

Massaging, one of the remedies for Charley Horse in Women

Massage your legs everyday with a massage oil or olive oil for 5 to 10 minutes. Not only does massaging help to get rid of leg cramps, but it is also a remedy for an instant relief when you get a leg cramp. For instant relief, stretch the leg which has the cramp and gently massage it to relax the muscle.

Heat or Cold pack

Heat packs help to relax the tightened muscles to relieve the leg from cramps. On an other hand, cold packs help in pain relief. In case of no heat packs, a warm towel or a warm bath would have the same effect. Alternatively, ice can be used as a replacement for cold packs to relieve the pain.

Magnesium

Magnesium plays a crucial role in muscle contraction and also neuromuscular transmission. Hence, deficiency in magnesium causes leg cramps. Leg cramp sufferers are often prescribed magnesium supplements to prevent the cramps. On another note, it is always healthy to go for natural ways rather than supplements, tablets and other intakes.

Foods that are rich in Magnesium should be added into your daily diet to balance the magnesium levels in the body. These foods not only give a magnesium intake to the body, but also give other crucial components like vitamins, protein, etc which are very beneficial.

Some of the foods which are rich in magnesium are:

Hydration

Loss of water or Dehydration has been known to be a cause for muscle cramps and Charley horse. Dehydration causes an imbalance or changes in the electrolytes (i.e)sodium and potassium. It is important to drink enough fluids especially while working out. Being hydrated does not only mean water intake. Keep your body hydrated with water, juices, smoothies, etc. Some of the foods which hydrate the body and prevent leg cramps are:

Drinking 2 to 3 ounces of tonic water before sleeping can help to prevent leg cramps. Tonic water contains quinine which prevents muscle spasms and cramps.

  • Nettle infusion

Put a cup of nettle herbs in a jar and add boiling water to it. Rest it for about 4 hours or overnight. Strain the herbs out and consume the remaining liquid. For taste, sugar or honey can be added. Although, it is healthier to go for honey instead of sugar. Nettle infusion has many benefits as it is rich in phytonutrients, magnesium and calcium.

Prevention of Charley Horse in Women

It is always better to prevent something from happening than to wait for it to happen. Here are some crucial prevention tips for Charley Horse (leg cramps). Leg cramp sufferers can follow these everyday to prevent future cramps.

  • Make sure to warm up before workout or exercise.
  • Stretching after a workout or exercise is more important than you think.
  • Never exercise the same muscles everyday. Make a workout plan with different muscle workouts each day.
  • If you are working out or exercising on a cold weather day, then cover yourself or wear a jacket to keep your body warm after the workout. Cold weather can worsen leg cramps.
  • Always keep yourself hydrated throughout the day. If you tend to forget, then download an app which will remind you to drink water or hydrate once in a while.
  • Stretch before sleeping
  • Avoid alcohol as much as possible.
  • Make a well balanced diet and follow it. Include only natural sources of vitamins, minerals, etc.
  • Exercise regularly.

Leg cramps can be very painful at times, especially in winters. Winter is here and it is important to take preventive measures to avoid suffering later on. Leg cramps can spoil your sleep in the night due to cold weather. So make sure you follow as many remedies as possible to have a cramp free winter. Have a healthy life!

References

https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00963638

https://www.healthline.com/health/charley-horse

https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002066.htm

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