Charley horse cramps, also known as nocturnal leg cramps, is a condition that millions of people world wide can attest to that are downright painful. If you have ever had one, they most likely happen to you in the middle of night or early morning, and can wake you up from a sound sleep.
As a side note, the term Charley Horse has no real origin, but has been traced back to the late 1880’s, and was a major league baseball slang referencing someone who could not run well, and was probably someone’s lame racehorse, presumed to be named Charley.
And a nocturnal leg cramp can make you feel just like a lame race horse. They may usually only last for a short period of time, but can seem like an eternity if it’s your leg.
There are several causes for Charley horses, but by far and away the major causes for these cramps are dehydration as well as a lack of three minerals in your system; Magnesium, Calcium, and Potassium.
Nocturnal legs cramps are very different for another common leg problem which is called restless leg syndrome in which your legs feel frigid or actually like something is crawling on them, causing you to want to move them frequently. With a Charlie horse cramp, it is a very sudden spasm that gives you no real option but to get up and move, and shake and massage your leg to try to get it to go away as quickly as possible.
This form of cramping can also occur in your thigh or your foot, but most often it happens in your legs. What is actually happening to your leg is that your muscles have tightened very suddenly and they are forcibly contracting themselves. This occurs where muscles actually cross two joints in your body such as your calf where muscles cross the ankle and the knee, and your hamstring, where the muscles cross the knee and the hip.
These nocturnal cramps can occur at the same time as other sleeping disorders, but they have no known link to any type of an underlying medical condition. But they can flat out hurt to the point that your leg, wherever it is affected, could still be sore the next day.
Charley horse cramps have the largest affect on the middle aged and elderly, as well as pregnant women simply because of a poor supply of blood that may be circulating in the limbs. They can, however, affect anyone, and also affect athletes of any gender if they get dehydrated or are not supplemented properly.
Hydrating yourself properly is critical if you experience a lot of leg cramps, but the key is properly. Hydrating with liquids such as alcohol, caffeine drinks like coffee and the ever popular energy drinks, and soft drinks are all diuretics, which are agents that cause even more dehydration in the body.
Hydrating properly means to drink water. Every cell in the body must have water including muscles, which are considered active tissues in your body. Water is also essential for moving and transporting minerals properly throughout our bodies.
So why are these three minerals so important to your body in helping or even preventing Charley horse cramps?
Magnesium is an essential mineral that is involved in several hundred enzymatic reactions in our bodies, but in reference to nocturnal leg cramps, it has an even bigger role. Approximately 26% of all magnesium in our bodies is found in our muscles, and the rest is in soft tissues and body fluids that are activated by water.
Magnesium’s largest role is in relaxing our muscles after calcium has stimulated them. This mineral is often referred to as a natural tranquilizer due to its therapeutic effects on both muscles and the nervous system. Besides helping with leg cramps, it also helps you to sleep better. Magnesium is found abundantly in grains, but 85% of the nutrient is lost in the milling process of the grains that we eat.
Calcium deficiency is the leading cause of muscle tremors and twitching in muscles, and calcium is often referred to as the trigger for all muscle contractions. It serves a major role in the formation of all actions in the motor end plates of muscles as well as muscle contraction activities.
Although milk and dairy products are rich sources of calcium, there are some issues with these products because the phosphorus levels in dairy products deplete calcium levels as well as depleting potassium levels.
Potassium is the final mineral to play a critical role with your muscles and leg cramps as its major function in the body is to assist with both muscle and nerve transmission. When movement of potassium is blocked or not transmitted properly by a lack of water, both muscle and nerves become compromised.
Potassium also is involved in the storage of carbohydrates for the use by our muscles for fuel and a deficiency of this mineral can lead to muscle weakness, fatigue, and cramping.
Quinine has also been shown to be effective for leg cramps, but there are so many side affects and so many issues with the FDA, that it would be wise to avoid anything with quinine in it.
When you get Charley horse cramps, you can walk, stretch, cuss some, and walk some more, until they have finally disappeared.
Or you can drink plenty of water, make sure that your body has enough of these three minerals either thru a multi liquid vitamin or just one tablet of each mineral every day, and not have to worry about waking up in the middle of the night with a lame horse leg cramp called Charley.
I am an avid lover of pets and my wife and I have had several pets throughout our years. We are especially fond of dogs, and we have a 12 year old Dalmatian (our 3rd) and a “mutt” that we rescued when someone threw him away to die in a vacant field.