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Charley Horse

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Author   Date Revised  

Charley Horse The web sites quoted below indicate that dehydration and mineral imbalances can cause a charley horse. Drinking adequate water and supplements of calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and B12 may prevent charley horse problems.

"* In most of the cases, Charlie horses are the late responses of straining a muscle during exercise, or otherwise.
* Charley horse might be the result of an electrolyte or mineral imbalance in the body.
* In some of the cases, Charlie horses have been found to be a signal of the onset of a vascular disease.
* At times, kidney dialysis has lead to the occurrence of Charley horse in the muscles.
* Low levels of minerals, such as potassium or calcium, in the body can be one of the reasons for Charlie horses.
* Low level of liquids in the body, while exercising, might be a probable cause of Charley horse.
* Some spasms, especially in the neck area, might be the result of taking too much stress.
* Charley horses in the upper leg are mainly caused by activities like running or jumping.
* Some of the spasms occur because of the irritation of the nerve that connects to a muscle.
* The most common type of Charley horse, found in the calf region, is often the result of kicking while swimming." (1)

  • Mineral deficiency.Occasionally, charlie horses are caused by an imbalance of potassium, calcium or magnesium in our bodies.
  • Dehydration.Dehydration is one of definite causes of muscle cramps, because our body needs water to act as lubricant for our joints and muscles.
  • Calcification. Calcification happens the mineral calcium gets into soft tissue and hardens. This happens when calcium is not properly absorbed by your body.
  • Side effect. It can be a side-effect to medications like statins (cholesterol lowering medications) and prednisone (medication for allergic disorders). (2)

'For women, I also recommend trying a combination of 500-700 mg of calcium and half that amount of magnesium divided into several doses throughout the day and one before bed. Make sure you eat plenty of potassium-rich foods such as bananas, tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli, cantaloupe, oranges and grapefruit. You may also want to consider having your iron levels checked, as low levels can contribute to leg cramps, especially at night. Warm baths can help ease cramps, and both massage and acupuncture are worth exploring. If you smoke, stop now. And, in addition." (3)

"There are several factors associated with muscle cramps. One factor that influences muscle cramps is a mineral deficiency or an imbalance of electrolytes such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, and sodium. Electrolytes are certain minerals that play an important role in muscle function. Low levels of any of these minerals can allow the muscle to contract, but prevent it from relaxing, Some researchers believe a mineral imbalance can negatively affect blood flow to the muscles and that a deficiency of some minerals, like potassium, can interfere with the muscles’ ability to use glycogen, a sugar that is the muscles’ main source of energy." (4)

"First, consider adding essential electrolytes, i.e., magnesium, potassium, etc. Sodium is an electrolyte; however, most people get plenty of it in their diet. Sodium should only be a nutritional concern if your intake is low or you sweat a lot while working or exercising. If either of these two instances are the case, then replacing sodium is something you should consider. Besides sodium, other important electrolytes are magnesium, potassium, and chloride. Magnesium, for instance, is an essential mineral involved in muscle function that helps muscles to contract and relax. A few years ago, researchers in the United Kingdom found that 300 mg of supplemental magnesium (as magnesium citrate) reduced nighttime or nocturnal leg cramps in individuals who suffered chronic leg cramps. Like magnesium, potassium is an electrolyte found in your muscles. In fact, when your muscles contract, they release potassium into the surrounding tissue. Chloride is an electrolyte that helps your body regulate the level of fluids in your body. Chloride is an important electrolyte to remember, since dehydration can be a contributing factor to muscle cramps or charley horses." (5)

How to Prevent Leg Cramps

Most of the prevention tactics are a direct product of knowing the causes of cramps and doing everything to prevent them in the first place. In order to prevent a cramp, take into consideration the following recommendations.

* Don’t overdue it. If you’re just starting to exercise for the first time in a while, take your time. Gradually work up to a goal, and don’t over exert yourself the first time out. Know your limits. Sometimes this is hard when participating in active-style sports like mountain biking or skiing, but recognize when your body is tired and give it a break.

* Drink plenty of water. Lack of water is a cause of leg cramping, so don’t get dehydrated.

* Be careful when going from different temperature environments. If you are exercising outside in twenty degree weather and you’ve been inside in seventy degrees, make sure to stretch well and warm up outside before beginning a workout. The same with cooling down. Be sure to cool down before entering a different temperature.

* Stock up on electrolytes. These are what give your cells the energy to be able to control your muscle movements. Most energy drinks for athletes are full of electrolytes for your body. Salt is the major component. You sweat when exercising which is why you need to replenish the electrolytes lost through sweating. It all makes sense. Ever tasted your sweat? Tastes salty doesn’t it?

* Stretch. This is probably the number one reason people get cramps. They start exercising their muscles when they haven’t been used in a while and they’re tight. It’s just like oil in a car. Without oil, the engine would not lubricate correctly, parts would not function optimally, and could break. Stretching not only prepares your muscles for movement, but it also mentally prepares you for exercise. (6)

"Leg cramps can have a lot of origins. If they are only at night, I often think of minerals. The top minerals that alleviate leg crams are magnesium and calcium. Since lab test for either of these are not particularly accurate or easy to interpret, I usually suggest a therapeutic trial. I suggest starting with magnesium. A dose of 100 to 150 mg of magnesium glycinate taken about an hour before bed is a good start. You can take up to 400mg/day - but this is best in divided doses to avoid the laxative effect. If you see no result from magnesium in 3 to 4 weeks, I would add calcium at 500mg at bedtime. Try to find a product that also supplies at least 400 IU of vitamin D. If this still fails, the other nutrients I would look at are iron and B12. These can both easily be tested for with simple labs, and when deficient are associated with night-time leg cramping." (7)




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