Whats a charlie horse

Charley horse

Charley horse is a North American term that is rarely seen in British English. We will examine the definition of charley horse, several theories as to its origin and some examples of its use in sentences.

A charley horse is a muscle cramp which usually occurs in the thigh or calf muscle of the leg. Note that the word charley in the idiom charley horse is not capitalized, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. The plural form is charley horses. The term first arose in the 1880s, from the American sport of baseball. One story states that the term was first used to describe a lame horse named Charley that pulled the roller at the White Sox ballpark in Chicago. A second origin theory gives the credit to a baseball pitcher of the 1880s named Charley Radbourne, also known as Old Hoss, who suffered a muscle cramp during a baseball game. Neither story is provable, and the origin of the term charley horse is lost in the mists of time. Relief from a charley horse is usually found through stretching, massage or application of heat.

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Examples

Senior Kourtney Urbanczyk, left the game with a charley horse but returned to complete a 10-point game. (The Buffalo News)

She says she’s in constant pain and describes it as like a charley horse that never goes away. (The Savannah Morning News)

Keen fell to the ground but said he believed he only had “a really bad charley horse,” the affidavit said. (The Columbian)

“The classic symptoms for DVT are pain in the back of the calf, like a charley horse that doesn’t go away,” Dr. Shivakumar illustrates. (The Chronicle Herald)

charley horse

thrillist.com

The ultimate origin of the term charley horse is murky, but it first appears in the context of baseball in the 1880s. Back then, baseball players called various muscle injuries, including cramps, bruising, and other pains and sores, charley horses.

One story says the term comes from a lame horse, named Charley, that pulled equipment at the Chicago White Sox’s in the late 19th century. Poor Charley’s limping stride became so familiar to the baseball players that, whenever one of them sustained a muscular injury in the lower body that made it hard to walk, they called it a charley horse.

Another tale goes that the term originated with Charley “Old Hoss” Radbourn, a National League pitcher notably afflicted with leg cramps and muscle pain in the late 1880s. Charley horse combined Radbourn’s first name and altered the second part of his nickname.

While originating as an Americanism, charley horse spread to other Englishes over the 20th century. It also spread into popular culture. Milton Bradley included a charley horse injury in his 1965 game Operation, in which a person earn big points by removing a tiny plastic horse from the slot. Note: This is not how to treat an actual charley horse. Doctors say to stretch, massage, or ice the cramping muscle, not try and pull a little horse out of it.


History By Zim

Charlie Horse, punningly, was the name of a character on the 1990s children’s puppet show, Lamb Chop’s Play-Along! Charley Horse is also a band based in Sydney, Australia that formed in 2010.

Wordorigins.org

This term for a cramp or pulled muscle in the leg is originally a baseball term, or at least it first gained widespread use in baseball jargon. The reference is a mystery. No one knows who Charley was or why he may have had a lame horse.

The earliest known use of the term is from the Boston Globe, 17 July 1886:

Several years ago, says the Chicago Tribune, Joe Quest, now of the Athletics, gave the name of “Charlie horse” to a peculiar contraction and hardening of the muscles and tendons of the thigh, to which base ball players are especially liable from the sudden starting and stopping in chasing balls, as well as the frequent slides in base running. Pfetlor, Anson and Kelly are so badly troubled with “Charley horse” there are times they can scarcely walk. Gore had it so bad he had to lay off a few days, and is not entirely free from it now. Williamson, too, has had a touch of it.1

(A search of the ProQuest archives of the Chicago Tribune fails to turn up the story about Joe Quest referenced in the above quotation.)

There are any number of tales about who Charley was. Sometimes he owned a lame horse and in others he was a lame horse. Perhaps the most plausible tale is one that again involves baseball player Joe Quest. First told in the Grand Rapids, Michigan Daily Democrat on 28 June 1889:

A Newcastleman gives the origin of Charley horse. Years ago, Joe Quest was employed as an apprentice in the machine shop of Quest & Shaw in Newcastle, his father, who was one of the proprietors of the firm, had an old white horse by the name of Charley. Doing usage in pulling heavy loads had stiffened the animal’s legs so that he walked as if troubled with strained tendons. Afterwards, when Quest became a member of the Chicago club, he was troubled, with others, with a peculiar stiffness of the legs, which brought to his mind the ailment of the old white horse Charley. Joe said that the ball players troubled with the ailment hobbled exactly as did the old horse, and as no one seemed to know what the trouble was, Quest dubbed it “Charley horse.”2

Whether this story is true or not is uncertain, but it does have a connection to Quest, like in the July 1886 citation, and it is recorded early enough that the details might not be too garbled in the telling. It’s interesting to note that many of the other tales that reference a horse named Charley give the detail that he was a white horse.

Other tales of the origin of charley horse can be discounted because the term was in use before the protagonist came to be. Perhaps the most famous of these states that the term is after Charlie “Duke” Esper, a southpaw pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles, who is said to have “walked like a lame horse.” Unfortunately for this story, Esper didn’t start playing until 1894, well after the term was established.

Other stories have it that a group of baseball players (in one version from Baltimore, in another from Chicago) bet on a horse named Charley who came up lame in the home stretch. The next day, when a player suffered from a muscle pull in the leg, it was dubbed Charley horse. One version even credits preacher Billy Sunday, who presumably was consorting with the gambling players, with the coinage. There is no strong evidence for any of these.

1Fred Shapiro, “Antedating of “Charley Horse,” American Dialect Society Mailing List, 7 Mar 2005.

2Paul Dickson, The New Dickson Baseball Dictionary (San Diego: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1999), 109.

What Is a Charley Horse?

You could be just about to fall asleep, or about to wake up. Suddenly, without any obvious provocation, your calf muscle goes into a spasm and just won’t relax — it contracts into a rock-hard mass, and you’re caught in the grip of excruciating pain. For first-timers, experiencing a muscle cramp, otherwise known as a Charley horse, can be frightening and crippling.

What Is a Charley Horse?

Charley horse is the common name for an involuntary muscle cramp, spasm, or contraction. Although the term usually refers to a nighttime muscle spasm in the back of your calf, it can occur in any muscle in your body. When you get a Charley horse, nerves from your spinal cord stimulate the muscle to keep contracting.

So who is Charley, and what’s the big deal about his horse? The term appears to have its roots in the great American pastime, baseball, though its exact origin is a little murky. One theory is that sometime in the late 1880s, the grounds crew in Chicago used a lame horse called Charley. Teammates started referring to injured players as Charley the Horse. Another story contends that a pitcher named Charles was nicknamed “Old Hoss.” One day, as he was running the bases, he got a leg cramp. As he limped toward home plate, another player asked, “What’s the matter, Charley Hoss?”

What Causes a Charley Horse?

Sometimes the exact reason for a Charley horse is unknown. But some common causes are muscle injury and overuse — for example, you may not have stretched properly before working out or may not be well hydrated. Low blood levels of key minerals such as potassium, calcium, or magnesium can also trigger leg cramps, and some diuretic medications that deplete the body of potassium can leave you vulnerable.

In some cases, a Charley horse can be traced to an irritated nerve somewhere in your body. It could even be caused by high heels. Also, you’re more likely to get cramps as you age because your muscles are not accustomed to working as hard or as responsively as they used to.

Treating a Charley Horse

Charley horse cramps usually stop by themselves without treatment from a doctor. As soon as you feel the cramp coming on, stop your activity. Massage your muscle and stretch it slowly, keeping it stretched until the cramp eases up. For example, if your calf is cramping, flex your foot (toes pointed toward you) and keep it flexed until the spasm stops. Try applying heat to help ease muscle tightness. In the aftermath of your ordeal, your muscle will feel sore. At this point, you can use a cold pack to soothe it.

How do you avoid a Charley horse? To help prevent cramps, do some flexibility exercises before and after exercise — warm up for a few minutes and then stretch, focusing on stretching those muscles that often cause problems for you. Also, make sure you’re always well hydrated, but especially when doing strenuous exercise.

Most muscle cramps aren’t serious and will go away on their own. However, on rare occasions, they might be a sign of a more serious condition needing medical attention. See your doctor if your Charley horses are accompanied by severe pain or weakness, become more frequent (even if they’re not painful), don’t get better with self-care, and don’t seem to be caused by overuse or exertion.

What’s the meaning of the phrase ‘Charley horse’?

Leg cramp or stiffness.

What’s the origin of the phrase ‘Charley horse’?

‘Charley horse’ (sometimes misspelled ‘Charlie horse’) is an American phrase and originated in the sport of baseball. The term is very much American and not in use in many other English-speaking countries. I’ve certainly never heard it use in the United Kingdom – here we are less imaginative and when we get cramp we call it just cramp. All the early citations of the phrase relate to baseball in some way or another. The earliest I can find is from The Fort Wayne Gazette, July 1887:

“Whatever ails a player this year they call it ‘Charley horse’. ‘Tom and Jerry horse’ would fit many cases.”

There are reports, which seem reliable but which I haven’t yet been able to confirm, that the phrase appears in ‘Sporting Life’ in 1886. The text of the item above would seem to indicate the phrase was coined around that time.

Why should leg cramp be called ‘Charley horse’? Well, no one seems to know. There are several speculated derivations but they amount to little more than guesses:

– A lame horse named Charley pulled the roller on the Chicago White Sox ballpark in the 1890s. That’s the most commonly repeated version but appears to be false as we can put the phrase before the horse, so to speak.

– Policemen in 17th century England were supposed to be called Charleys and the term migrated to America. The amount of walking the police were required to do gave them aching legs. This seems fanciful. I can’t confirm the use of the term Charleys for police in England or America and there seems nothing to explain the link with baseball.

– The pitcher Charley Radbourne was nicknamed Old Hoss. He got cramp during a baseball game in the 1880s. This at least is plausible and has no obvious fault to rule it out, but that’s not enough to prove it is the origin.

Q From Gerard Joannes in France; a related question came from Edmund Matthews in the UK: Have you ever heard of a charley horse? Where does this phrase come from?

A It’s American, dating from the 1880s, and was originally baseball slang. It refers to a painful involuntary cramp in an arm or leg muscle, usually that of an athlete, as a result of a muscular strain or a blow. We’re not sure where it comes from, but there are lots of theories. There’s a persistent story that the original Charley was a lame horse of that name that pulled the roller at the White Sox ballpark in Chicago near the end of last century. The American Dialect Society’s archives reproduces a story that was printed in the Washington Post in 1907, long enough after the event that people were trying to explain something already mysterious. This piece said it referred to the pitcher Charley Radbourne, nicknamed Old Hoss, who suffered this problem during a game in the 1880s; the condition was then named by putting together his first name and the second half of his nickname. The first recorded use, again from the ADS archives, is from the Sporting Life of 1886; that and other citations suggest it was coined not long before.

Why Do We Call a Leg Cramp a Charley Horse?

If you’re unlucky enough to have experienced a charley horse—a painful muscle spasm or cramp in your leg—then you may have found yourself wondering what this nonsensical phrase even means. Who is this Charley character? Where did he come from? And what does he know about my pain?

Like the words flaky and jazz, this term likely entered the language from the baseball field. While the idiom’s etymology isn’t 100 percent certain, archived newspaper articles suggest it was coined by a baseball player in the 1880s. We just don’t know which player said it first, or why.

According to a January 1887 article in the Democrat and Chronicle, the phrase was well-known to baseball players at the time—but to the average person, charley horses were as enigmatic as “an Egyptian hieroglyphic.” That year, charley horses were mentioned in a slew of newspapers across America, and some attempted to tackle the phrase’s murky origin. “Nearly every sporting journal gives a different version as to how the term charley horse originated in baseball circles,” the Oakland Daily Evening Tribune reported at the time.

The likeliest tale, according to the paper, centered around John Wesley “Jack” Glasscock, a shortstop who at the time was playing for Indianapolis. At some point a few years earlier, the player had strained a tendon in his thigh during a game and afterwards went home to his farm, where his father looked after a lame old horse called a “Charley horse.” When the senior Glasscock saw his son limping along, he reportedly exclaimed, “Why, John, my boy, what is the matter; you go just like the old Charley horse?” John supposedly shared the funny turn of phrase with his teammates, and from there it spread. Similar accounts were reported in other newspapers, but they were attributed to various other players.

Other reports say the phrase has nothing to do with a live animal, but rather the fact that an injured player, while running, resembles a rocking horse or a child riding astride a wooden hobby horse.

The New Dickson Baseball Dictionary by Paul Dickson details a few other theories. In two versions of the same basic tale, Orioles or Chicago Cubs players went to the races and bet on a horse named Charlie who “pulled up lame in the final stretch.” The next day, a player pulled a tendon in his leg and was said to resemble “our old Charlie horse.”

Alternatively, its origin may relate to an old workhorse that was tasked with pulling a roller across the infield. “Often in the 1800s, old workhorses kept on the grounds of ballparks were called Charley. The movements of the injured, stiff-legged ballplayers were likened to the labored plodding of these old horses, and the injury itself eventually became known as a ‘charley’ or ‘charley horse,'” Tim Considine wrote in 1982’s The Language of Sport.

It also appears that charley horse originally implied a much more serious injury—or perhaps there was a bit of hysteria surrounding a condition that seemed new and scary in the late 19th century. The Democrat and Chronicle described a charley horse as a “giving way of one of the small tendons of the leg” and said an injured baseball player might need an entire season to recover. Another article from 1887 said ballplayer George Van Haltren’s relatives were worried he would get a charley horse, “although they do not know what that is.” He was said to have been “very fortunate” because he had “not yet encountered the terrible charley horse.”

For comparison, Healthline.com now says charley horses “are generally treatable at home” by stretching, massaging, or icing the afflicted area, although the muscle pain can linger for up to a day in some cases. So there you have it. We may never know the exact etymology of the charley horse, but the next time you get a sharp pain in your leg, you can thank an old-timey ballplayer for making your struggle sound so silly.

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Muscle Cramps

Topic Overview

A muscle cramp is a strong, painful contraction or tightening of a muscle that comes on suddenly and lasts from a few seconds to several minutes. It often occurs in the legs. A muscle cramp is also called a charley horse.

Nighttime leg cramps are usually sudden spasms, or tightening, of muscles in the calf. The muscle cramps can sometimes happen in the thigh or the foot. They often occur just as you are falling asleep or waking up.

The cause of muscle cramps isn’t always known. Muscle cramps may be brought on by many conditions or activities, such as:

  • Exercising, injury, or overuse of muscles.
  • Pregnancy. Cramps may occur because of decreased amounts of minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, especially in the later months of pregnancy.
  • Exposure to cold temperatures, especially to cold water.
  • Other medical conditions, such as blood flow problems (peripheral arterial disease), kidney disease, thyroid disease, and multiple sclerosis.
  • Standing on a hard surface for a long time, sitting for a long time, or putting your legs in awkward positions while you sleep.
  • Not having enough potassium, calcium, and other minerals in your blood.
  • Being dehydrated, which means that your body has lost too much fluid.
  • Taking certain medicines, such as antipsychotics, birth control pills, diuretics, and steroids.

How can you stop a muscle cramp when it happens?

You may need to try several different ways to stop a muscle cramp before you find what works best for you. Here are some things you can try:

  • Stretch and massage the muscle.
  • Take a warm shower or bath to relax the muscle. A heating pad placed on the muscle can also help.
  • Try using an ice or cold pack. Always keep a cloth between your skin and the ice pack.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • If your doctor prescribes medicines for muscle cramps, take them exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you have any problems with your medicine.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Sports drinks, such as Gatorade, will often help leg cramps.

Here are some things you can try for a leg cramp:

  • Walk around, or jiggle your leg.
  • Stretch your calf muscles. You can do this stretch while you sit or stand:
    • While sitting, straighten your leg and flex your foot up toward your knee. It may help to place a rolled towel under the ball of your foot and, while holding the towel at both ends, gently pull the towel toward you while keeping your knee straight.
    • While standing about 2 ft (0.6 m) from a wall, lean forward against the wall. Keep the knee of the affected leg straight and the heel on the ground. Do this while you bend the knee of the other leg. See a picture of how to do this calf stretch.

If you think a medicine is causing muscle cramps:

  • Before you take another dose, call the doctor who prescribed the medicine. The medicine may need to be stopped or changed, or the dose may need to be adjusted.
  • If you are taking any medicine not prescribed by a doctor, stop taking it. Talk to your doctor if you think you need to continue taking the medicine.

How can you prevent muscle cramps?

These tips may help prevent muscle cramps:

  • Drink plenty of water and other fluids, enough so that your urine is light yellow or clear like water.
  • Limit or avoid drinks with alcohol.
  • Make sure you are eating healthy foods (especially if you are pregnant) that are rich in calcium, potassium, and magnesium.
  • Ride a bike or stationary bike to condition and stretch your muscles.
  • Stretch your muscles every day, especially before and after exercise and at bedtime.
  • Don’t suddenly increase the amount of exercise you get. Increase your exercise a little each week.
  • Take a daily multivitamin supplement.

If you are taking medicines that are known to cause leg cramps, your doctor may prescribe different medicines.

What if muscle cramps keep coming back?

Talk with your doctor if you have muscle cramps that keep coming back or are severe. These may be symptoms of another problem, such as restless legs syndrome.

If cramps keep coming back, bother you a lot, or interfere with your sleep, your doctor may prescribe medicine that relaxes your muscles.

You’re sound asleep, and then, without warning, you wake up with a paralyzing stiffness in your calf or foot.

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Whether you call it a foot or leg cramp (aka “charley horse”), it’s a common, somewhat mysterious pain that happens when a muscle gets involuntarily stiff and can’t relax.

“They tend to happen more frequently as we age,” says sports and exercise medicine physician Kim Gladden, MD. “While they can be uncomfortable, they are rarely harmful.”

Here’s what causes these cramps, as well as tips to help prevent them.

RELATED: Your Feet Hold Clues to Clogged Arteries

7 common causes for cramps

Whether day or night, your foot and calf muscles can spasm or cramp. This can happen to various muscles — not just in the legs or feet — though these cramps are often most uncomfortable.

Causes for muscle cramps include:

  1. Lack of hydration.“If you are experiencing cramping, it’s important to look at your hydration first,” Dr. Gladden says. You want to make sure you are drinking enough water throughout the day.
  2. Problems with nutrition. While a balance of electrolytes (calcium, sodium, potassium, and magnesium) is essential for the contraction and relaxation of a muscle, it’s best not to simply self-treat with supplements. “Taking excess supplements if you don’t need them can be harmful,” Dr. Gladden says. Instead, she suggests eating a variety of foods with plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables. This includes leafy greens and fruits, including bananas, to add a balance of electrolytes to you diet.
  3. Side effect of medication. Some medications such as statins and furosemide (Lasix®) can also cause muscle cramps. A tip-off is when cramps start suddenly after you begin taking a new medication. If this happens, see your practitioner.
  4. Not stretching enough. Taking time to stretch each day, including after a brief warm up or after a shower can help. “You want your muscles to be as strong and supple as they can be. Adequate stretching after a brief warm-up period is key to this,” Dr. Gladden says.
  5. Overexertion. If you exercise harder than usual or experience muscle fatigue, this can cause cramps. Pace yourself.
  6. Poor circulation. If you have cramping that increases when you walk, it could be a problem with your circulation. “Some circulation problems cause pain that feels like cramping. If it gets worse when you walk, or if you have cramps that just don’t stop, definitely see your doctor,” Dr. Gladden says.
  7. The wrong shoes. A less-known cause for muscle cramping: your shoes. “You want to look at your shoes, especially if you changed from flats to heels. This also can cause cramps,” Dr. Gladden says.

RELATED: How to Choose the Best Shoes for Your Feet

How to stop leg and foot cramps

There are some simple ways to respond to leg and foot cramps:

  • If it happens while you are lying down or in bed, try to simply stand up and put some weight on the affected leg or foot. This can sometimes be enough to stop that tender stiffness.
  • Use warmth/heating pads to increase blood circulation to the muscle and to relax it. Soaking in a warm tub of Epsom salt can also help ease the tension.
  • For more stubborn pain, you can try a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen.

Easy stretches to keep calves and feet happy

Here are some simple stretches that can help stop pain and prevent it.

Basic calf stretch

This calf stretch is commonly used by runners. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Stand with your palms placed against a wall, with arms stretched out
  2. Step back with leg of affected calf
  3. Lean forward on the other leg and push against the wall

You should feel a stretch in your calf muscle and the back of the leg.

Towel stretch

Do this stretch while you sit:

  1. Keep legs outstretched in front of you
  2. Point the toes of your affected foot at the ceiling so that the leg is engaged
  3. Take a towel or neck tie and wrap it around your foot, holding it with both hands
  4. Lift the leg slightly until you feel a good stretch

RELATED: Foot and Ankle Pain Treatment Guide

Keep cramps from happening again

Here are some tips to prevent leg cramps:

  • Stay well hydrated
  • Stretch each day, especially before you exercise
  • Limit or avoid alcohol
  • Eat a balanced diet that includes natural sources of calcium, potassium and magnesium
  • Increase your activity level gradually

If leg or foot cramps are occasional occurrences, you can generally manage them yourself. However, if they happen frequently, are severe, or if you are concerned any of your medications are the culprit, talk to your doctor. They could signal a medical problem that requires treatment.

Most of us have experienced an occasional charley horse, that sudden, intense muscle pain that grips the calf muscle. Many people have, inexplicably, felt this pain in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, there is as yet no clear explanation of why it occurs.

“Leg cramps that happen during sleep are quite common but not fully understood,” says Dr. Jonathan Kirschner, assistant professor of interventional spine and sports medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. A 2012 report in the journal American Family Physician found that nearly 60 percent of adults have experienced what the experts call nocturnal idiopathic leg cramps — and we become more prone to the pain as we age. One in 3 people over the age of 60 report having been awakened by a charley horse at least once in the previous two months; 6 percent of those over 60 say they deal with the problem on a nightly basis.

MoreWhat’s Causing Your Leg Pain, Burning and Numbness?

Nighttime leg cramping, Kirschner says, is an involuntary spasm that’s often the result of random signals from the brain telling the muscles to contract. “A charley horse is uncomfortable, to be sure, but usually harmless. Many times it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong,” he says. “But if the cramps are getting worse or disrupting your sleep to the point where it’s impacting your waking hours, then it’s something you should bring up with your doctor.”

What Causes a Charley Horse

A charley horse can be a sign of several conditions. The cramps can be related to spinal stenosis, a natural wear-and-tear condition that leads to the narrowing of the open spaces within your spine, which in turn puts pressure on the nerves that travel through it. Many people may not be aware they even have this condition until a doctor is able to connect it to certain symptoms, including nighttime leg pain.

MoreStretches and Exercises for Tired, Achy Legs

Overnight cramps could also be the result of dehydration, especially in warm weather, which can also bring on electrolyte imbalance, or deficiencies of certain nutrients, typically calcium, magnesium or potassium. The pains have also been linked to some medications, including beta blockers and blood-pressure drugs.

Nighttime charley horses could also stem from peripheral artery disease, which causes the narrowing and hardening of arteries that supply blood to the legs and feet. But, as Kirschner points out, that condition should also produce cramps while walking.

Some assume a connection between nighttime leg pain and restless leg syndrome, but the conditions are not related. Restless leg syndrome typically produces not sudden cramps but leg discomfort that can last for hours.

How to Handle Nighttime Leg Cramps

There are myriad ideas for handling nighttime leg cramps. If you search online for “charley horse treatment,” you’ll see a range of tips, from self-massage to listening to classical music to eating mustard. Many of these treatments have been studied, but the results are far from conclusive.

Fundamentally, Kirschner says, since there’s no clear “rhyme or reason” for the cramps, the best thing people can do to prevent them is to generally maintain a good baseline level of fitness and stay well hydrated. The Mayo Clinic advises other steps to prevent flare-ups, like stretching leg muscles before going to sleep and loosening the covers at the foot of your bed.

When cramps do hit and force you out of bed, Kirschner says, his patients have found relief in remedies including:

  • Cold Applying ice to the muscle can relax tension.
  • Heat A hot shower or bath can reduce pain.
  • Massage Firmly press on the aggravated muscle for several seconds with your thumb or fist, then gently knead the area.
  • Movement and stretching Get out of bed and start walking, then stretch the muscle. Face a wall and extend the affected leg backward, then lean toward the wall until you feel tension in the leg and hold the stretch for several seconds.
  • Aromatherapy Chamomile, in the form of a cream, a scented candle or a cup of herbal tea, can be effective as a natural muscle relaxer.

Kirschner discourages people from purchasing supplements that claim to relieve cramps without having them checked out with a doctor. “My fear,” he says, “is that some will have harmful doses of something like quinine, which can cause heart arrhythmias.”

Then there’s the soap remedy. Believers swear that sleeping with a bar of soap under your bottom sheet, below the affected leg, will ward off the pain. Any casual online search will turn up numerous enthusiastic testimonials. There is, however, no scientific evidence that it works, or even why it would, except perhaps the placebo effect. “The evidence is anecdotal at best,” Kirschner says. “But if it doesn’t hurt and it makes you feel better, go right ahead.”

By Debra WittDebra Witt is an Allentown, Pa.-based freelance writer who frequently covers health, fitness and other lifestyle topics.

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      • Radial Head Fractures of the Elbow
      • Shoulder Separation
      • Sprains and Strains
      • Stress Fracture
      • Thumb Fracture
      • Thumb Sprain
      • Wrist, Distal Radius Fracture
      • Wrist, Scaphoid Fracture
      • Wrist Sprains
    • Hand and Wrist
      • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
      • Dupuytren’s Contracture
      • Extensor Tendon Lacerations
      • Hand and Wrist Arthritis
      • Hand and Wrist Tendinitis
      • Finger Fracture
      • Hand Fracture
      • Ganglion Cyst
      • Thumb Fracture
      • Wrist, Distal Radius Fracture
      • Wrist, Scaphoid Fracture
      • De Quervain’s Tendinitis
      • Flexor Tendon Injuries
      • Nerve Injuries
      • Thumb Sprain
      • Trigger Finger
      • Wrist Arthroscopy
      • Wrist Sprains
    • Hip
      • Anterior or Posterior Hip Replacement
      • Femoral Acetabular Impingement (FAI) & Labral Tear (Hip)
      • Hip Arthritis
      • Hip Arthroscopy
      • Trochanteric Pain Syndrome (Hip Bursitis)
      • Hip Osteonecrosis
      • Hip Resurfacing
      • Sciatica
      • Total Hip Replacement
    • Joint Replacement and Revision
      • Anterior or Posterior Hip Replacement
      • Hip Resurfacing
      • Partial Knee Replacement
      • Shoulder Replacement
      • Total Hip Replacement
      • Total Knee Replacement
    • Joint Disorders
      • AC Joint Inflammation
      • AC Joint Issues
      • Ankle Arthritis
      • Anterior or Posterior Hip Replacement
      • Arthritis
      • Articular Cartilage Restoration
      • Biceps Tendinitis
      • Biceps Tendon Tear at the Elbow
      • Bunions
      • Elbow Arthroscopy
      • Elbow (Olecranon) Bursitis
      • Femoral Acetabular Impingement (FAI) & Labral Tear (Hip)
      • Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis)
      • Ganglion Cyst
      • Golfer’s Elbow (Medial Epicondylitis)
      • Hallux Rigidus (Stiff Big Toe)
      • Hand and Wrist Arthritis
      • Hip Bursitis
      • Hip Arthroscopy
      • Hip Osteonecrosis
      • Hip Resurfacing
      • Knee Arthroscopy
      • Knee Osteotomy
      • Knee Osteonecrosis
      • Loose Body in the Elbow
      • Osteochondritis Dissecans
      • Partial Knee Replacement
      • Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
      • Radial Head Fractures of the Elbow
      • Shoulder Arthroscopy
      • Shoulder Dislocation
      • Shoulder Impingement
      • Shoulder Replacement
      • Shoulder Separation
      • SLAP Tear
      • Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)
      • Total Hip Replacement
      • Total Knee Replacement
      • Ulnar Nerve Entrapment at the Elbow (Cubital Tunnel Syndrome)
      • Unstable Kneecap (Patella Instability) Procedures
      • Wrist Arthroscopy
    • Ligament Disorders
      • ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) Injuries and Reconstruction
      • Collateral Ligament Injuries (MCL, LCL)
      • Combined Knee Ligament Injuries
      • Low Back Pain
      • Neck Sprains and Strains
      • PCL (Posterior Cruciate Ligament) Injuries and Reconstruction
      • Plantar Fasciitis
      • Sprains and Strains
      • Thumb Sprain
      • Wrist Sprains
    • Muscle Disorders
      • Biceps Tendon Tear at the Elbow
      • Contusions or Bruises
      • Cramps or Charley Horse
      • Hamstring Injuries
      • Low Back Pain
      • Lumbar Back Strain
      • Sprains and Strains
      • Thigh Muscle Strain
    • Knee
      • ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) Injuries and Reconstruction
      • Articular Cartilage Restoration
      • Collateral Ligament Injuries (MCL, LCL)
      • Combined Knee Ligament Injuries
      • Jumper’s Knee
      • Knee Arthritis
      • Knee Arthroscopy
      • Meniscal Tears
      • Osgood-Schlatter Disease
      • Osteochondritis Dissecans
      • Knee Osteonecrosis
      • Knee Osteotomy
      • Partial Knee Replacement
      • Patella Tendinitis and Patella Tendinosis
      • Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
      • PCL (Posterior Cruciate Ligament) Injuries and Reconstruction
      • Total Knee Replacement
      • Unstable Kneecap (Patella Instability) Procedures
    • Minimally Invasive Surgery (Arthroscopy)
      • Arthroscopy
      • Elbow Arthroscopy
      • Hip Arthroscopy
      • Knee Arthroscopy
      • Rotator Cuff Tear and Arthroscopic Repair
      • Shoulder Arthroscopy
      • Wrist Arthroscopy
    • Neck and Back (Spine)
      • Backpack Safety
      • Cervical Fracture (Broken Neck)
      • Cervical Radiculopathy (Pinched Nerve)
      • Cervical Spondylosis (Arthritis of the Neck)
      • Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy (Spinal Cord Compression)
      • Fracture of the Thoracic and Lumbar Spine
      • Herniated Disk
      • Kyphosis (Roundback) of the Spine
      • Low Back Pain
      • Lumbar Back Strain
      • Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
      • Neck Sprains and Strains
      • Osteoporosis and Spinal Fractures
      • Preventing Back Pain
      • Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction (SI Joint Pain)
      • Sciatica
      • Scoliosis
      • Spondylolysis and Spondylolisthesis
    • Pediatric Injuries
      • Backpack Safety
      • Bone Joint and Muscle Infections in Children
      • Golfer’s Elbow
      • Growth Plate Fractures
      • High School Sports Injuries
      • Jumper’s Knee
      • Kyphosis (Roundback) of the Spine
      • Osgood-Schlatter Disease
      • Osteochondritis Dissecans
      • Overuse Injuries in Children
      • Patella Tendinitis and Patella Tendinosis
      • Pes Plano Valgus (Flexible Flatfoot in Children)
      • Scoliosis
      • Sever’s Disease
      • Spondylolysis and Spondylolisthesis
      • Throwing Injuries to the Elbow in Children
    • Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
      • PM&R or Physiatry Overview
      • AC Joint Issues
      • Arthritis Overview
      • Biceps Tendinitis
      • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
      • Cervical Radiculopathy (Pinched Nerve)
      • Cervical Spondylosis (Arthritis of the Neck)
      • Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy
      • Femoral Acetabular Impingement (FAI) & Labral Tear of the Hip
      • Fibromyalgia
      • Herniated Disc
      • Hip Arthritis
      • Hip Bursitis
      • Knee Arthritis
      • Kyphosis (Roundback) of the Spine
      • Neck Sprains & Strains
      • Osteoporosis & Spinal Fractures
      • Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (Runner’s Knee)
      • Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction (SI Joint Pain)
      • Sciatica
      • Scoliosis
      • Shoulder Arthritis
      • Shoulder Impingement
      • Spondylolysis & Spondylolisthesis
    • Shoulder
      • AC Joint Inflammation
      • AC Joint Issues
      • Biceps Tendinitis
      • Chronic Shoulder Instability
      • Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis)
      • Rotator Cuff Tear
      • Shoulder Arthritis
      • Shoulder Arthroscopy
      • Shoulder Dislocation
      • Shoulder Impingement
      • Shoulder Replacement
      • Shoulder Separation (AC Joint Sprain)
      • SLAP Tear
    • Sports Medicine (General)
      • Sports Medicine Overview
      • Contusions or Bruises
      • Cramps or Charley Horse
      • Fractures
      • Growth Plate Fractures
      • Hamstring Injuries
      • High School Sports Injuries
      • Osteochondritis Dissecans
      • Overuse Injuries in Children
      • Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP)
      • Posterior Tibial Tendon Dysfunction
      • Sprains and Strains
      • Stress Fracture
      • Throwing Injuries to the Elbow in Children
    • Sports Medicine (Upper Body)
      • AC Joint Inflammation
      • AC Joint Issues
      • Biceps Tendinitis
      • Biceps Tendon Tear at the Elbow
      • Cervical Fracture (Broken Neck)
      • Golfer’s Elbow (Medial Epicondylitis)
      • Loose Body in the Elbow
      • Rotator Cuff Tear
      • Shoulder Dislocation
      • Shoulder Impingement
      • Shoulder Separation (AC Joint Sprain)
      • SLAP Tear
      • Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)
      • Throwing Injuries to the Elbow in Children
      • Thumb Sprain
      • Wrist Sprains
    • Sports Medicine (Lower Body)
      • Achilles Tendinitis
      • Achilles Tendon Rupture
      • ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) Injuries and Reconstruction
      • Ankle Sprain
      • Collateral Ligament Injuries (MCL, LCL)
      • Combined Knee Ligament Injuries
      • Femoral Acetabular Impingement (FAI) & Labral Tear of the Hip
      • Jumper’s Knee
      • Osgood-Schlatter Disease
      • Patella Tendinitis and Patella Tendinosis
      • Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
      • PCL (Posterior Cruciate Ligament) Injuries and Reconstruction
      • Peroneal Tendon Injuries
      • Posterior Tibial Tendon Dysfunction
      • Sever’s Disease
      • Spondylolysis and Spondylolisthesis
      • Thigh Muscle Strain
  • Patient Information
  • Education

      The following information is provided to help you gain a better understanding of anatomy, terminology, certain orthopaedic procedures, and more. If you have any questions, feel free to ask your physician.

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    • Instructional Animations
    • Glossary
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