Charley Horses

Woke up at about 7 this morning, and wanted to stretch. Had that oh-so-familiar-to-us-all sudden, horrible cramp in my left calf. It’s now 11 am, and it still hurts.

I have some questions about these things:

  1. I’ve heard that nutrition can play a part in preventing these. What might I be missing? I’m pregnant now, but I’m also hypoglycemic. I try to eat a good, balanced diet. What might I be missing/getting too much of that could cause these horrible things?

  2. I don’t get leg cramps often, but when I do, they almost never hurt for this long. Why is it still hurting 4 hours later? I walked it out, and have been massaging it periodically since then.

  3. Where did the term “charley horse” come from? Just curious.

I used to take Q-vel for leg cramps but they took it off the market. The drug store attendant suggested the usual muscle pain relievers. My doctor suggested drink more water and ice down the cramp, also massage. My mother used to suggest Dolomite, should be able to find it at GNC or another health store.

PS—Ask your doctor before taking any of the drugs or even some of the herbal/vit./min. sold at health food stores since you’re pregnant.

I had heard that it was a potassium issue, so bananas should help, even before you start on the pharmaceuticals.

When I used to get them regularly, I could alleviate the immediate pain by stretching out my heel and angling my toes up toward my knees. (Try resting your hands on something (a dresser or countertop?) and push the pained leg back as far as you can, using your unaffected leg to steady yourself, and stretch the heel of the suffering leg back. The floor helps push your foot/toes “up.”)


I always heard the term “muscle cramp” to describe Cristi’s malady. A charley horse was a result of getting hit sharply on a muscle. Two very painful but distinct situations. Is this distinction a local variation? Are the words used synonymously elsewhere?

The overwhelming majority of people have more than the average (mean) number of legs. – E. Grebenik

A lot of pregnancy books I’ve read suggest calcium. You’re probably eating a lot of it anyway right now, but you might want to make sure you get a dose right before bed. That seemed to work for me. I never got real cramps when I was pregnant, but I did get this very annoying restless “twitch” in my calves. A glass of milk or a couple of Tums did seem to help.

No milk…lactose intolerant. Tums I can do.
Dolomite? Never heard of it…think I’ll try that after I’m done being pregnant. My husband gets leg cramps kind of often, so maybe I’ll have him give that a shot.

I use the terms “muscle cramp,” & “charley horse” interchangeably, because I had forgotten that there is indeed a difference. A charley horse is a sharp jab to a muscle, resulting in a muscle cramp. Thanks for reminding me!

I used to get charley horses rather frequently, for about a year, and always (as yours did) on waking and stretching in bed. I wasn’t pregnant at time, and I’m not sure that that has anything to do with it. Another poster was right about stretching the calf out with the foot flat (don’t point your toe) - the cramp is a contraction of the muscle and stretching it this way conteracts the contraction. You can do it in bed if you’re in too much pain to stand. I too was told that it’s due to shortage of potassium - eat bananas. I have’nt had one in a long time, so I hope yours are short-lived also. Good luck.

Of course, since you’re pregnant, run all message board suggestions by your M.D.

If the bananas don’t help, you might talk to your doctor about prescribing you potassium supplements (they are prescription only). I’ll add to the chorus that my own leg cramps were due to lack of potassium, so it wouldn’t hurt to check it out.

I dunno how valid this is scientifically but I have a friend who swears by Vitamin E for cramps and charlie horses. I tried it and it seems to work…at least I don’t get charlie horses when I do a couple of tabs of E a day and they start up again a couple of days after I stop.

Lex Non Favet Delictorum Votis

Only time I ever got leg cramps was when I was pregnant. Doctor said cereal with milk and bananas every morning ought to do it. She was right! :slight_smile:

BTW, my kids get leg cramps at night. I bought these Hylands Homeopathic Leg Cramp pills. You just melt a few under your tongue. Seems to work for them. Could just be a placebo, but who cares?

The cramp remedy I used back in the football days was as follows:

Drink 10 glasses of water 3 days before the game, and everyday until 2 hrs before kickoff. The day of the game eat 3 banana’s and be sure to have an average amount of salt in that days diet. During game time drink water in small portions.

Now all these things were magic in preventing cramps. The cramps during games (any athletic activity) are caused by dehydration. How the potassium fits in I don’t know. The salt was important to make sure your body retained a adaquate amount of water in heat. The water days ahead of time made your body retain larger amounts of water, you couldn’t drink large amounts of water the day of the game, and during the game or you’d get stomach cramps.

Now if cramps from dehydration and physical activity are anything similar to those morning ones I don’t know. I have heard that it is very important to drink water in the morning (and from waking up with very dry mouths) to rehydrate you after a parched night. This implies that morning cramps are indeed caused by dehydration. I imagine potassium my act in the bodies mechanism for storing water.

Being pregnant you will need a much higher volume of water than you typically drink for obvious reasons. The sweating and constant peeing doesn’t help any either.

I would make a conscious decision to drink much more water during the day and early evening. Avoid soft drinks, caffine, and alcohol because they dehydrate you. Fruit juice, and water should help, and the oft mentioned banana. I hope this makes some sense.