As you are sleeping soundly and having sweet dreams, suddenly you get a sharp feeling in the middle of the night. You are awoken by a scream worthy pain in your leg. As this pain starts to alleviate after a couple seconds, you wonder what you did to deserve such an excruciating pain. If you ever experienced this sensation, you probably know what it is. This sudden, involuntary contraction of muscles that often happens in the legs is most commonly referred to as a charley horse.
Charley horses are muscles spams that occur when the muscle performs an extremely uncomfortable contraction. This contraction can last several seconds and can be very painful. If the contraction is painful enough, the muscle that was contracting can be sore for several hours. Charley horses mainly occur at night when you are laying in your bed asleep. The people most prone to getting charley horses are usually those with poor circulation in their legs or those who have muscle fatigue from overusing the affected muscle throughout the day. Causes of these muscle spasms can also include muscle injuries, exercise in excessive heat or cold, overuse of a muscle and lack of proper stretching. Athletes and people who exercise a lot are not the only people affected by charley horses. Infants, elderly people, and people who smoke or are obese are prone to charley horses as well.
The good news is that these muscles spasms can be treated at home without seeing a doctor. Simple stretches, massages and hot packs can help relax the muscles. You can also prevent muscle spasms from even occurring by taking preventative measures to ensure a good night’s sleep. By stretching your legs before a workout, or even before bed, you can prevent muscle spasms. Stretching increases flexibility in the muscles so it does not tense up and cause contractions. It also helps to circulate the blood and increase your range of motion.
To sum things up, a charley horse is a very sharp pain in the leg that lasts a couple of seconds but can feel like more because of the intense pain it produces. This contraction can prove annoying as it ruins sleep for a lot of people. Luckily, charley horses are easily treatable and preventable with stretching.
For more serious cases where muscles spasms are more frequent, it is good to see your doctor. They will be able to better diagnose the cause and be better equipped to treat it.
For more information on charley horses, click here.