Charley Horses are a Real Pain

Charley horses are a real painCharley horses are a real pain, any of us that suffer from them can attest to that. Since I’ve been back to work and standing on my feet six hours a day I suffer from them almost nightly.  I can wake up anywhere from one to six or seven times a night with cramps either in my calves, shins or feet but it’s the ones that get in my thighs that make me cry out loud. Darn but they do hurt.

The definition of a night time leg cramp or charley horse is a quick tightening of a muscle.  I’m sorry but we could have told “them” that.  They usually happen just as a person is falling asleep or just waking up.

Charley horses are a real pain but what causes them. Everybody knows they happen but, according to some,  there is no known cause for them.  Ain’t that a kick in the head.  One more thing that there’s no known cause for to add to my list of fibromyalgia and Crohn’s disease.

On the other hand, and I agree with this more, charley horses can be caused by over exercise, being dehydrated,  muscle fatigue, setting and standing in one position too long.  Low potassium, calcium and magnesium can also contribute to leg cramps. Muscle cramps can also be caused by certain diseases.  Cramping is one of the symptoms of fibromyalgia and Parkinson’s disease.  Drinking too much alcohol and certain medications can also cause cramping.  PAD or poor circulation in the legs is also a known cause. Now I’ve experienced one or more of these things, alone and in combination, for many years and I can usually pinpoint which one(s) are causing my cramps. The cramps that occur in my feet will often start when my feet get cold. When the middle of my back feels out of place I notice I have more leg cramps.

I’ve tried every trick in the book to get rid of one once it sets in.  Just setting on the side of the bed with my foot flat on the floor sometimes works.  Other times I try to lift my foot towards my shin but that often triggers a cramp in my shin or along side the shin.  The ones in my feet are the most easily dealt with.  I can usually just let them relax away by lying still.  If I get one in my thigh it means standing up, bending from the waste and gently rubbing the thigh muscle. I keep quinine tablets in the bathroom cabinet and they often will get the cramps to let up and stay away.  Quinine can be purchased at many pharmacies and health food stores without a prescription. Just look for “leg cramp relief”.

These things work for me.  Other suggestions are a warm bath or shower or an ice pack on the tight muscle.  Another suggestion is to put an towel under the ball of your foot and stretch the cramped muscle.  Others have said not to stretch the cramped muscles because it might cause tearing or other muscle damage.

For me prevention is better than treatment for charley horses.  Gently stretching my calf, thigh, and lower back muscles will keep the cramps away for the most part.  Also I stay hydrated.  I drink plenty of water, take calcium/magnesium tablets, walk around at work rather than stand in one place, and I wear socks to bed to keep my feet warm.  I also go to the chiropractor regularly to keep my spine aligned.

Yes, charley horses are a real pain and if you get them ore than once per night they can leave a person totally drained the next day.  It’s hard to navigate when your leg muscles are sore and feel like you’ve either run a marathon without training or been beaten within an inch of your life.  I accuse my husband of pounding me during his sleep…He just smiles.

If you do end up with an entire night of cramps and have sore muscles the next day you can treat them like any other over worked muscle.  Take Tylenol or other pain reliever, use a muscle rub, take a warm shower or bath, very gently stretch the muscles or take a gentle walk, and pray they don’t come back the next night.

A few weeks ago I was up four to six time a night for five nights in a row.  I could hardly walk by the end of the week. My doctor put me on a muscle relaxant and hydrocodone to help me sleep because of my fibromyalgia and he said they should help the cramps too.  It has, slightly, but one of the side effects of the muscle relaxant is muscle spasms and one of the side effects of the hydrocodone is sleeplessness – go figure. When I take this combination I often end up feeling wired during the night with cramps in my feet and legs.

Well the search is still on for what will keep the leg cramps away and allow me to get a good night’s sleep.  If you’re having the same problem call your doctor.  Hopefully between the two of you, you can come up with a solution to your cramps.

Charley horses are a real pain

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