Charley horse can affect any muscles, but typically affects the legs. The condition is marked by uncomfortable muscular contractions.
In case the contracting muscles do not relax for several seconds or longer, the pain can be severe. A severe case can lead to muscle soreness that lasts for a few hours up to a day. Remember that this is considered normal, if the discomfort is not prolonged or recurring.
The condition can be managed at home. If it occurs frequently, it is often linked to an underlying health condition that requires treatment.
What are the usual causes?
Various factors can cause charley horse.
The common causes include the following:
- Muscle injuries
- Poor blood flow to the muscle
- Lack of stretching before exercise
- Exercise in excessive cold or heat
- Stress, usually in the neck muscles
- Overuse of a specific muscle during exercise
- Spinal nerve compression
- Using diuretics that can lead to low potassium levels
- Depletion of minerals or lack of potassium, calcium and sodium
Management of a charley horse
The treatment for a charley horse is based on the root cause. If brought about by exercise, a simple stretching regimen will allow the muscle to relax and stop it from contracting.
The application of a heating pad can accelerate the relaxation process while an ice pack can numb the discomfort. In case the muscle is still sore after a spasm, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) might be recommended by the doctor.
For a recurrent case, an aggressive treatment is necessary. The doctor might prescribe pain medications. In severe instances, the doctor might prescribe antispasmodic medication. Physical therapy can help the individual cope with the muscle spasms and prevent further complications.
In severe cases, the doctor might suggest surgery. If other treatment options fail to work, surgery can widen the space around the nerve to alleviate the pressure. This can greatly help if nerve compression triggers the spasms.
Disclaimer / More Information
The information posted on this page on a charley horse is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to properly manage this muscle issue, register for first aid training at one of our training centers located throughout Canada. The training centers are in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Kelowna, Saskatoon, Victoria, Surrey, Mississauga, Winnipeg, Red Deer, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax.