Your Bod

Buh-bye charley horse cramps: Here's how to kick 'em for good


That grueling totally random pain in your leg? It actually has a name: Charley horse. And if you've ever experienced one, you know how much those 5-second stinkers can hurt. But why does it happen in the first place and how can we prevent 'em? Here's what ya need to know.

What it is

The word “charley-horse” is and old time phrase for an uncontrollable cramp or muscle spasm. The difference between a charley horse and a basic cramp is the time duration. Everyday Health says that charley horses last longer (most around 3-4 minutes long) because “when you get one, nerves from your spinal cord stimulate the muscle to keep contracting.”

Why it happens

Charley horses can be triggered by a number of things. Like most cramps, a charley horse could be a result of dehydration. Some people have contract charley horses while sleeping (note that these people are probably “rough sleepers” who move a lot in their sleep).

It could also be brought by overexertion. For example, if you’ve been jumping rope for an hour then you’re calves might get a charley horse cramp.

Everyday Health also suggests that low potassium calcium, or magnesium levels can also cause charley horses.

How to prevent them

It’s all about “going easy” on your body. Stay hydrated with water to ward of these painful cramps. Also if you’re engaging in physical activity, then stretch well before and after to loosen muscles.

3 methods to cure it if you’ve already got one

  • As soon as you feel the cramp coming on, stop your activity. Be still and let the cramp run its course. 
  • Use your finger pads to massage the area. Stretch it outward slowly until the pain eases up. 
  • The heat ‘n’ cool method is always a good go-to for any cramp. Apply heat to help ease muscle tightness. Hold it for 1 minute, then switch your heat out for a soothing cooling pack.

*Whatever you do, don’t just try to walk it off! It’ll only intensify the pain or make the cramp last longer.

Do you get charley horses often? How do you take care of yours? Tell us in the comments below

We want to hear from you! Send us your weirdest body questions here (seriously, we'll answer anything!) and it just might get featured.


by Laurise McMillian | 2/1/2016