In my last article I talked a bit about charley horses and some of their causes. This affliction affects many, so I wanted to discuss it a bit more in depth. As many people know, who have experienced them, charley horses often happen at night- awakening their victim with a severe cramp. Because they are due to muscle spasms, it’s thought that part of the reason they occur so frequently during sleep is that a person is lying in the same position for a long period of time. Typically, lying in an awkward position for any prolonged period can result in a muscle spasm- hence the charley horse!
The thing about charley horses is that they can happen to anyone, at any age, and can occur at any time of the day or night- although they tend to happen more at night. However, there are some people who do tend to experience them more than others. They are:
· Older adults
· People who smoke
· Obese people
· People taking certain medications like Evista, diuretics, or statin drugs
Athletes tend to experience charley horses because of muscle overuse/fatigue. Obese people experience them more because of poor circulation in their legs. People who experience them due to taking certain medications usually are facing dehydration. Smokers and older adults are on the poor circulation end of the spectrum, making them more prone to charley horses. And infants, well, that is a bit more of a mystery, except they do spend a lot of time in the same positions, so perhaps that is why.
If a charley horse only happens once in a while, it really isn’t cause for concern. However, if they occur on a regular basis, you should have your doctor check you out. Your doctor can make a diagnosis through looking at your history and doing a physical exam. MRI’s are typically utilized to help determine if nerve compression is the cause of frequent charley horses. Lab work is also done on your blood to check for low potassium, calcium, or magnesium levels.
So, although charley horses are never fun, hopefully you are someone who only experiences them once in a while. If you are on the other end of the spectrum, though, and experience them more than once a week, get yourself checked out. Dr. Eric Abrams is a skilled podiatrist with two Central NJ locations available for his patients to visit. If you have any foot or leg issue that concerns you, give him a call!