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What Is A Charley Horse

    The term “charley horse” has been used for pain-inducing muscular cramps, especially if occurring in the legs. Anyone who has experienced a muscle cramp (charley horse) can attest that it can be pretty painful. Overuse of the muscle, dehydration, muscular tension, or just holding position for an extended time can all trigger a muscle cramp. Cause Doctors do not exactly know why muscle cramps occur when someone is exercising or has no other health conditions.

    Sometimes, leg cramps occur for no reason, but at other times, they may possibly be a sign or symptom of a health condition. People who are pregnant or suffer from certain health conditions, like diabetes and disorders of the nerves, liver, or thyroid, might be at higher risk of developing leg cramps. Frequent muscle spasms are usually associated with major medical conditions requiring medical care. For others, though, the spasms can be tremendously painful, leaving a few days of aching muscles.

    Most cramps also tend to happen most often at night, leaving you with sore muscles or stiffness in the morning. Nighttime leg cramps may wake you, make it harder for you to fall back asleep, and make you feel sore throughout the night. Worse, a charley horse may hit any time of the day or night, although a common one is to experience a muscle cramp during a dream. A Charley Horse may result from direct impact or a sudden stretching of a muscle, but more often than not, it is caused by exertion or fatigue while exercising.

    Charley horses, as they are more commonly called, are an unintentional response in which nerves controlling a muscle, typically a calf muscle, malfunction, forcing the muscle to lock up in the contracted position. A charley horse is a violent cramp or spasm that occurs when one or more muscles, typically those in the calf, suddenly and involuntarily contract, sometimes creating a solid mass of muscle tissue under your skin. Charley horse is a North American term used to describe a painful cramp or spasm, particularly occurring in leg muscles, in which muscles contract out of control and fail to relax. Often called a Charley Horse, foot or leg cramps are caused by an involuntary muscle contraction lasting anywhere from seconds to minutes or longer.

    If you have ever been awakened at night or stopped in your tracks by an unexpected charley horse, you know muscle cramps can be extremely painful. While both nighttime leg cramps (nighttime foot cramps) and restless legs syndrome will often occur at night or while resting, the pain from restless legs does not result in severe pain. Note that restless legs syndrome (RLS), which also happens at night, is a different condition which, although it is not comfortable, does not produce the intense muscle cramping pain. In addition to calf muscles, muscles on the soles of your feet may also cramp, which may be painful.

    Most cramps happen on your lower leg (usually your calf), and oftentimes, in addition to pain, you may also experience a tight knot or clump. Muscles spanning both joints are the most likely to cramp, and cramps also are common in the feet, hands, arms, belly, and around the rib cage. When someone experiences a muscle cramp, a severe, acute, aching pain may occur, often accompanied by a firm kink felt beneath the skin, where muscle tissue has been contracted. These cramps are most common in the calves, hips, and arches of the feet; however, any skeletal muscle (that is, one that can be controlled) may experience the issue. Although they are fairly painful, muscle cramps are a temporary, mostly harmless, phenomenon lasting between seconds and minutes.

    If you have ever been shaken from a dream with an acute throbbing pain in the legs, leaving you panting, you are all too aware of just how painful a muscle cramp can be. Narrowing the arteries that supply blood to your legs (arteriosclerosis of the limbs) can cause cramp-like pains in your legs and feet when you are exercising. Muscle cramps in the legs that occur during exercise may be a sign of a more serious condition called intermittent claudication, which results from a failure of the blood circulation in your legs. If you are not adequately trained, or you do not adequately warm up prior to your exercise, the muscles might not get enough blood flow, causing cramps.

    One theory is that the “charley horse” or cramps might involve nerves in a specific muscle serving your leg. A specific muscle serving your leg. Usually, the cause of the charley horse is a muscle that is being overused, so that when you go to use the affected muscle, its sort of getting irritated, if youll, and the fibers of the muscle are sort of stuck together, and they wont let go without some kind of force, says Lisa Nichole Folden, licensed physical therapist and owner of Healthy Phit Physical Therapy & Wellness Consultants. The most common causes of these painful cramps are a lack of stretching and lack of flexibility in muscles, says Lisa Nichole Folden. Athletes are also susceptible to the “Charley horse” because they are at a higher risk for over-exerting the muscle while exercising, or developing muscle injuries, two contributing factors.

    A Charley Horse usually involves a muscle in the calves, in the back of the lower leg, but it may occur also in the feet and, sometimes, the hips. The charley horse, or nighttime leg cramp, is about as common as the charley horse is unwanted: an unfortunate, inexplicable malady that leaves us, and doctors, wondering why on earth this happens, and how can we prevent it from happening again. For instance, leg cramps are often experienced by people in their mid- to late-life years, but are common even among athletes (long-distance runners and cyclists) and people who keep an active lifestyle.

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