It may be that the Charley Horse got its name in the 1880s from a baseball pitcher who had leg cramps on the field. Others say it was named after a lame horse “Charley” that existed at the ball park as well.
Regardless of where it originated, many people as we get older suffer from leg cramps at night and we wonder where they come from and how to stop them.
What Causes Leg Cramps at Night?
The consensus of opinions is that there can be several common causes but since this blog is about health over 70, I’ll focus on causes that are most common to us and not to olympic athletes.
- mineral deficiencies – potassium, calcium, and magnesium are often quoted as the most important minerals and mineral deficiencies related to leg cramps.
- dehydration – too little intake of fluids is a very common problem cited as we get older. With reduced activity, it’s easier for us to neglect drinking enough water.
- poor circulation and muscle fatigue – also a common problem – we neglect to get even a minimum amount of exercise to encourage better circulation.
What to Do Immediately?
If you wake up with a leg cramp, here are some suggestions.
- stretch – most cramps are in the calf muscle so gently stretch your calf by pulling your toes toward you – or if you can’t reach your toes, place some weight on your foot and lean forward against a table or something heavy until you feel a slight stretch of the calf muscle.
- soak – put some epsom salts in a bath and soak you leg in warm water and epsom salts.
What to Do for Prevention?
- mineral deficiencies – take a daily supplement including potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Too much calcium reduces the effectiveness of magnesium so any calcium supplement you take should include magnesium. Green leafy vegetables have these minerals so a daily salad would include romaine lettuce, spinach, kale, carrots, and celery. A daily “green drink” could also supply these minerals.
- dehydration – always have a water bottle in your hand everywhere you go and keep sipping it constantly until it becomes a habit. Set objectives to finish a bottle before breakfast, lunch, and dinner – challenge yourself to drink until your urine is consistently light yellow or clear. Don’t use sodas or fruit juices as a substitute for water – they have too much sugar and will cause inflammation that you don’t need so just focus on filtered pure water instead.
- poor circulation and muscle fatigue – when you try to do too much exercise you fail and end up doing nothing at all so set your sites on a short walk everyday and make it a routine that you do without fail every day even if at the start you’re only doing 10 minutes. Once you’ve made it a habit you can expand to 15 minutes or 20 minutes but don’t overdo it – if your muscles are sore then take it slow and keep doing it without overdoing. The result of daily exercise of the legs can be very beneficial for this problem.
What About Supplements?
Here are some recommendations on supplements that I have used. When I start to feel legs cramps coming I automatically step up my magnesium and that does it every time so I’ve got my cures down. I take a daily liquid calcium with magnesium as shown below.