How To Get Rid of Foot Cramps (Charlie Horse)

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For those who don’t know, a foot cramp is an unbearably painful ailment that, most commonly, affects the muscles of the leg or the foot (foot cramps). Those who suffer from this terrible condition know the distress and pain it causes are not easy to overcome or ignore. The muscles are impacted due to an imbalance of several stimuli which translates in painful spasms and contractions that are involuntary and quite discomforting.

What is a Charley Horse?

 

Charles Radbourn Foot Leg Cramps Charley Horse
Charles Radbourn Baseball Card

The name of this condition comes from an 1880s’ baseball player, named Charley “Old Hoss” Radbourne, who used to suffer from foot and leg cramps during his games. In simple words, a charley horse represents a painful condition, characterized by muscle cramping, involuntary spasm and leg pain. It can be extremely inconvenient to exercise your leg movement, moving around or even sitting still. It makes a person incapable of performing normal everyday tasks without discomfort or pain. It can occur at any part of the body but is most commonly found around the leg region and the feet (in this case a charlie horse is also known as foot cramps). It can last from about a few seconds or minutes to several hours of unbearable pain and unease with muscle contraction and involuntary movement.

 

The relaxation of the contracted muscle comes later and leaves the affected individual in an utmost unease and unpleasantness. The severity of the condition is directly proportionate to the cause of the foot cramp; correspondingly the longevity of the cramps and the frequency of their occurrence can inadvertently contribute to soreness around the feet area and the affected underlying muscles.

What causes Foot Cramps and Charlie Horses?

There are several factors contributing and enabling the foot cramps and causing much trouble in their way. Inadequate blood flow to the muscle due to some underlying systemic condition can greatly leave the muscles defectively nourished and cause the cramps and spasms to torment and torture the affected patient.

Pregnant females, due to their increase in weight and the nourishment of the growing baby can suffer from this condition in many cases. Muscle injuries greatly increase the chances of involuntary muscle contraction, implicating the injured area with more suffering. Another factor that can contribute to the appearance is doing too much exercise which can lead to a chain of events resulting in accumulation of adverse factors contributing to this condition. Repeated exercises with little to no rest can also exacerbate the muscle cramps and overexertion can cause muscle fatigue.

An imbalanced proportion of minerals and ions can greatly affect the ability of the muscles to contract or relax normally. This leads to an increased chance of developing cramps and spasms all around the body. Dehydration, sunstroke, mineral deficiency, inadequate diet or malnutrition can all greatly influence this condition and effect the muscles adversely. Too little calcium, potassium and sodium concentration is highly dangerous and should be addressed and corrected properly.

Certain medications, like statins and furosemide, are known to increase the chances of suffering from foot cramps due to their side effects affecting the muscles. The antagonistic effects of the medications usually present early on so it is advisable to consult your medical professional to avoid any serious implications.

foot cramps charley horse stretching
Leg and Foot Stretching

Not stretching enough and wearing the wrong kind of shoes with improper insole can vastly affect muscle health and increase the chances of poor circulation, foot cramps, spasms, charley horses and fatigability of muscles to a great extent.

There are many causes of charley horse which have an overlapping effect on the muscle health and growth. Addressing the real cause of the cramps is the first step towards a viable remedy to the aching pain and the incredible agony one has to endure under the unfortunate circumstances of the muscle spasms of leg and feet impairing one’s normal life and numerous everyday activities.

Foot Cramps At night

According to statistics, many people seem to suffer from this torturing distress during the night when at sleep. Although a direct cause has not been found yet it has been professionally suggested this situation is brought about by the long period of passivity we spend at bed. Another theory suggests that it is due to the positioning of our body during sleep time which is relatively absurd and irregular.

How to Get Rid of Charlie Horses and Foot Cramps

There are several simple solutions and tricks we can use to find a remedy to this painful condition. The first step is evaluating the cause behind the cramps in the feet themselves, only then can we observe and put into practice a remedy that could resolve the problem at hand.

Foot Cramps Charlie Horse Charley Horse
Picture by Randy Lemoine

If the Charley horse is due to exertion, intensive exercise or training the patient should reduce the stress by changing to a routine of much lesser intensity. Laying off from exercising for a couple of days will help greatly reduce the soreness and pain and contribute to an effective healing.

For an immediate relief, though, it is better if you apply an ice pack to the affected area. This will provide an instant decreasing in the soreness of the inflamed area and will numb the pain. Referring to a doctor to seek medical help can also prove beneficial; prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) medications like ibuprofen are often relatively effective.

You can also try applying direct pressure on the aching area of the feet until the cramp goes away. Using the unaffected leg forward stepping into a lunge while straightening the affected leg has also been seen to show improvement and instant relief in dire conditions.

Treatment for Severe Cases

Recurrent attacks of charley horse or foot cramps might require a much more aggressive approach: antispasmodic drugs and medications under doctors’ prescription and observation. Some doctors may prefer massages and physical therapy in certain cases to help relax the spasms and the abrupt muscle contraction and pain. In very extreme cases, in which no other remedy has been proven to help or deter the spasmodic pain and discomfort, some individuals are also redirected towards a surgical option in order to obtain a complete relief.

As you already know, prevention is better than cure, so stay hydrated, avoid an imbalance of ions or minerals, eat a proper well-nourished diet and stretch before indulging in any hardcore exercise routine. You’ll live a happier and pain-free life!

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