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Relieve Charley Horse Cramps

If you’re being woken up by charley horse cramps, you’ll love these stretching techniques and other charley horse remedies.

Q: I get charley horses in my calves that wake me up. Are they triggered by my daily running?

A: Probably not. "Charley horse cramps are caused by involuntary muscle contractions," says Jason Karp, a personal trainer in Albuquerque, New Mexico. "If you're getting them when you're resting, chances are they're triggered by dehydration or a mineral deficiency [often sodium, potassium, or magnesium]." Some medications, including diuretics and cimetidine (a heartburn reliever), may also be the culprit.

Charley Horse Remedies

"To prevent cramps, drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day, eating high-potassium foods such as bananas and oranges, and stretching your calves before you go to bed," Karp says. If you wake up with a cramp, walk around for a few minutes, massage the area, and then stretch.

Stretching Techniques for Charley Horse Cramps

Effective stretching techniques target the calves such as the wall stretch (see photo) and the toe pull.

To use the wall calf muscle stretch as a charley horse treatment:

  1. Face a wall with your hands resting on the wall for support.
  2. Extend one leg backwards, keeping both feet flat on the ground and the rear knee straight.
  3. Lean towards the wall by bending your front knee until you feel tension in the extended leg. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds and repeat with alternate leg.

To use the toe pull calf muscle stretch as a charley horse treatment:

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you.
  2. Lean forward as far as you can, wrapping your hands around the arches of your feet if possible.
  3. Flex your toes towards your body until you feel tension in your calf muscles and hold.

If these don't relieve your pain, or the cramp recurs daily for a week, see a doctor.


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