Charley Horse, Calf Cramps, Oh My!

Charley Horse
Charley Horse

I think we’ve all experienced it. The stabbing pain of our calves waking us up and demanding we address their problem.

Numerous things can cause calf cramps: among the most common are potassium deficiency (eating a banana is said to help), calcium deficiency, even a reaction from a drug (my doctor recently told me to make sure I take Cipro, a common antibiotic, with a generous amount of water or I might experience calf cramps).

The most common cause of cramps or a charley horse that a massage therapist deal with is overuse or weakened calf muscles. Did you run an extra mile today? Did you work out just a little bit harder than usual? Did you garden or do yard work today longer than usual? Well, there you go. Perhaps a cramp is in your future.

What exactly is a calf cramp? Your calf muscles contract as you are using them. During use, the actually shorten. There also is a change in the electrolytes within the fibers. The potassium and sodium content are changed. When the muscle actually relaxes, the potassium and sodium go back to their normal state. When the muscle is overworked and disrupts the normal changes of these electrolytes, the muscle will contract involuntarily. That’s an intricate way of saying your muscles will cramp.

What can you do as you wake up and look down at the culprit? If you can, straighten your leg and pull your toes up towards you. This stretch increases blood supply to the muscles and lengthens the calf. Next, rub the cramp site. Don’t just grab your leg; go for the stretch, as it will provide a much better relief.

To lessen your attacks, practice self-massage by sitting on the floor with your knee bent and your lower leg at a 45-degree angle. Using your thumbs and fingers, massage your calf.



Here’s other ways to help prevent muscle cramps:
Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate! I know we hear it daily, but dehydration can wreak havoc on our bodies. Drinking plenty of water can prevent all sorts of issues.
Make sure you are not calcium or potassium deficient. Ask your doctor for guidance,
Stretch before and after you work out or do strenuous exercises.
Seek massage from a professional.

Next time you schedule your massage, ask your massage therapist for help with massaging techniques and guidance with stretching.

One last thought, Thanksgiving is upon us. This time of year reminds me how thankful I am for my family, my friends, my wonderful clients and the country we live in.

I hope Thanksgiving gives you pause to be thankful as well.

-Lisa Lane (LMBT #13098) is the owner of Massage Sanctuary in Mint Hill and is a licensed massage therapist with certification in neuromuscular therapy.