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Charley Horses: All About Muscle Cramps and Spasms

Aug 1, 2015

Have you ever woken in the morning and leisurely stretched in bed when all of a sudden a charley horse strikes one of your calf muscles or your foot and you double up like a pretzel in pain waiting for the spasm to subside? These types of muscle cramps are involuntary contractions that can be quite painful. Most often they occur in the calf or foot but muscle spasms can take place along your rib cage, your abdomen, and down your arms to your hands.

What’s the Cause?

Muscle cramps and spasms can happen for a variety of reasons. Here’s a list of possible causes:

  • Muscle fatigue or over exertion of muscles
  • Dehydration
  • Poor circulation
  • Insufficient stretching or warming up of the muscles
  • Magnesium deficiency
  • Potassium deficiency
  • Pinched nerves
  • A side effect of medication for Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s

What To Do
If you find yourself cramping regularly, there are several courses of action you can take to help find relief.  First, try including foods that contain magnesium or calcium into your dietary routine. If this proves difficult, consider taking a magnesium supplement near bedtime or an Epsom salt bath to encourage calcium absorption through your skin. The added bonus of adding magnesium to your diet is that it can also improve the quality of your sleep!

Next, be sure to up your water intake, especially during the warmer months. This will help ward off dehydration and prevent your tired muscles from contracting after use.

Last, but not least, stretching and massage are two great additions to your activity routine. Consider including extra time to warm up before you get moving and a few extra minutes once you wind down to again stretch your muscles. Adding a weekly massage can also do wonders for your body to eliminate spasms and cramps. 

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