What Can I Take For Charley Horses

What Can I Take for Charley Horses?

Charley horses, also known as muscle cramps, are sudden and involuntary contractions of muscles that can be quite painful. They commonly occur in the legs, particularly the calf muscles, but can also affect other areas of the body. If you’ve ever experienced a charley horse, you know how debilitating it can be. But fear not, there are several things you can take to help alleviate the pain and prevent future occurrences.

1. Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers

One of the first things you can take for charley horses is an over-the-counter pain reliever. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with muscle cramps. However, it’s important to follow the recommended dosage and consult with your doctor if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking other medications.

2. Magnesium Supplements

Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays a crucial role in muscle function. Taking magnesium supplements can help prevent and reduce the frequency and severity of charley horses. It’s recommended to take 400-500mg of magnesium per day, but consult with your doctor before starting any new supplements.

3. Hydration

Dehydration can contribute to muscle cramps, so it’s important to stay adequately hydrated. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially before and after strenuous physical activity. If you’re prone to charley horses, consider drinking an electrolyte-rich sports drink to replenish lost minerals.

4. Stretching and Massaging

When you experience a charley horse, gently stretching and massaging the affected muscle can help alleviate the cramp. Use slow, controlled movements and apply gentle pressure to the area. If you’re unsure how to properly stretch or massage, consult with a physical therapist for guidance.

5. Heat or Cold Therapy

Applying heat or cold therapy to the affected muscle can provide relief from a charley horse. You can use a heating pad, hot water bottle, or warm towel to apply heat to the muscle. Alternatively, you can use an ice pack or cold compress to numb the area and reduce inflammation. Experiment with both heat and cold therapy to determine which provides the most relief for you.

6. Epsom Salt Bath

Epsom salt, also known as magnesium sulfate, can help relax muscles and ease the discomfort of charley horses. Fill a bathtub with warm water and add 1-2 cups of Epsom salt. Soak in the bath for 15-20 minutes to allow the magnesium to be absorbed through your skin. Repeat as necessary.

7. Gentle Exercise

Incorporating gentle exercise into your routine can help prevent charley horses and improve muscle health. Low-impact exercises like walking, swimming, or cycling can promote blood flow to the muscles and reduce the chances of cramping. Avoid high-impact activities that could strain your muscles.

8. Stay Active

A sedentary lifestyle can increase the risk of muscle cramps, so it’s important to stay active. Engage in regular physical activity to keep your muscles strong and flexible. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. If you have any health concerns or limitations, consult with your doctor before starting any new exercise regimen.

9. Adequate Potassium Intake

Potassium is another essential mineral that plays a role in muscle function. Ensure you’re getting enough potassium in your diet by consuming potassium-rich foods such as bananas, oranges, avocados, spinach, and sweet potatoes. If necessary, your doctor may recommend potassium supplements.

10. Avoid Triggering Factors

Identify and avoid any triggering factors that may contribute to charley horses. This could include factors such as certain medications, high or low temperatures, dehydration, or muscle overexertion. By recognizing what triggers your muscle cramps, you can take steps to avoid them in the future.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What causes charley horses?

Charley horses can be caused by a variety of factors, including muscle fatigue, dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, poor circulation, nerve compression, or underlying medical conditions.

2. Are charley horses dangerous?

While charley horses can be incredibly painful, they are not typically dangerous. However, if you experience severe or frequent muscle cramps, it may be a sign of an underlying condition, and you should consult with your doctor.

3. Can I prevent charley horses?

There are measures you can take to help prevent charley horses, such as staying hydrated, stretching regularly, maintaining proper nutrition, and avoiding triggering factors. However, it’s important to note that charley horses can still occur despite these precautions.

4. When should I see a doctor?

If you experience severe or frequent muscle cramps that do not improve with at-home remedies or if they interfere with your daily activities, it’s advisable to seek medical attention.

5. Can medications cause charley horses?

Some medications, such as diuretics, statins, and certain blood pressure medications, have been associated with an increased risk of charley horses. If you suspect your medication may be contributing to your muscle cramps, consult with your doctor about potential alternatives.

6. How long do charley horses last?

The duration of a charley horse can vary from a few seconds to several minutes. In some cases, the cramp may linger for several hours or even into the next day.

7. Can pregnancy cause charley horses?

Yes, pregnancy can increase the risk of charley horses due to hormonal changes, weight gain, and fluid shifts in the body. Pregnant women should speak to their healthcare provider for appropriate management strategies.

8. Can dehydration cause charley horses?

Dehydration can contribute to the development of charley horses. It’s important to stay well-hydrated, especially during physical activity or in hot weather.

9. Can certain foods trigger charley horses?

There is limited scientific evidence to support the notion that certain foods can trigger charley horses. However, maintaining a well-balanced diet rich in essential nutrients can help support muscle health and function.

10. Are there any medications specifically designed for charley horses?

There are no specific medications designed solely for the treatment of charley horses. However, over-the-counter pain relievers and magnesium supplements can be beneficial in managing the pain and reducing the frequency of muscle cramps.


Dealing with charley horses can be a frustrating and painful experience. However, there are steps you can take to alleviate the pain and prevent future occurrences. From over-the-counter pain relievers to hydration and stretching, there are various options to explore. It’s essential to listen to your body, stay active, and consult with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns or if the muscle cramps persist or worsen. Remember, each individual may respond differently to various treatments, so finding what works best for you may require some trial and error.

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