Charley Horse Definition, Causes and More

By shirley
Reviewed: dr. vanta
Article Sources Article Sources
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Medical Expert Medical Expert

Also known as a muscle spasm or a cramp, a charley horse is a sudden, involuntary muscle contraction. It may affect part or all of a muscle or a muscle group, and it's usually painful. Acute pain may last for several seconds or several minutes.

Charley horses can occur in any voluntary muscle, but they frequently develop in the calf and in the back or front of the thigh. These spasms may also affect the hands, arms, feet, abdomen and rib cage. While most charley horses aren't serious, sometimes they're a sign of more serious ailments, such as liver or circulatory issues.1‘Muscle Cramps - OrthoInfo - AAOS.’ OrthoInfo,–conditions/muscle-cramps.,2‘Muscle Cramps.’ Cleveland Clinic,

Cause: Muscle Strain and Dehydration

While it's not always possible to identify the cause of a charley horse, exercise is often associated with the development of these painful muscle spasms. Failing to warm up properly prior to exercise, engaging in unusual strenuous activity and muscle fatigue may lead to a charley horse.

Low levels of body fluids may also cause these muscle cramps. This is especially likely when a person exercises in hot weather and perspires profusely. Sweating causes the body to lose fluids and depletes reserves of salt and minerals, such as calcium, potassium and magnesium. When this happens, a charley horse is more likely to develop.1‘Muscle Cramps - OrthoInfo - AAOS.’ OrthoInfo,–conditions/muscle-cramps.,2‘Muscle Cramps.’ Cleveland Clinic,

Charley Horse

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