Some of you know them as Charlie Horses (sometimes spelled Charley Horses), but technically they are called muscle cramps or muscle spasms. It is practically impossible to get through life without suffering a Charlie Horse at least once in your life, and as we age they become more common. This symptoms of this very painful affliction usually shocks you awake late at night. A searing pain in the calf, thigh or foreleg muscles freezes your entire leg into position and the slightest movement seems to make it worse. Still most of us instinctively know that rotating the ankle or trying to stand can eventually cause the frozen muscles to let go and relax. However, one accursed aspect of this condition is that it can cause your leg muscles to relax and then, spasm suddenly again for a second or third time in the same evening.

Eating a banana can help relax cramped leg muscles because they contain potassium.

Eating a banana can help relax cramped leg muscles because they contain potassium.

However, you don’t need to be asleep to suffer from a muscle cramp. People experience charley horses while swimming and also while simply sitting at their desks. If you can’t get rid of the cramp and begin suffering arm and leg pain as well it can be a symptom of deep vein thrombosis, which is a serious situation that warns of a heart attack.

Immediate Relief for a Charlie Horse (Muscle Spasms or Leg Cramps)

If you find yourself seized by a muscle cramp proceed as follows:

1. Relax and try to take deep breaths. Do this even though the pain is absolutely excruciating. This will help the muscles to relax.
2. Begin by trying to rotate your ankle. If you can do that, then try extending your leg and jutting your heel outwards and then pointing your toe. Be sure to continue inhaling and exhaling deeply as this happens. Do this slowly and work your way into it while breathing deeply.
3. As soon as you are able, stand and gently start taking steps forward, being careful not to put too much weight on the ball of your foot or the heel.
4. When the cramp has subsided put a bit of unrefined sea salt beneath your tongue to prevent it from happening again.
5. Drink two eight ounces of water to make sure the cramp or spasm was not provoked by dehydration.
6. Eat a food high in potassium such as a banana, avocado or cup of yogurt to help prevent it from happening again.
7. Examine the causes of leg cramps below to see if it is time to visit an naturopathic doctor to address the nutritional deficiency or condition that is causing you to experience this in the first place.

What Causes Leg Cramps?

Leg cramps have many causes including:

• Dehydration, often provoked by drinking alcohol, drugs, exercise, hot weather and fevers
• A lack of magnesium in your diet cause by a low-calorie diet or poor diet
• A lack of potassium in your diet provoked by low calorie diets and a lack of fresh orange hue vegetables like carrots or sweet potatoes
• A lack of calcium in your diet, provoked by low calorie diets or a lack of dairy products
• Poor circulation caused by diseases like diabetes, arteriosclerosis and other cardiovascular disorders
• Compression of nerves in your spine can cause leg cramps

Tips for Preventing Leg Cramps

• Eat a raw, fresh organic diet that is mostly nutritious vegetables
• If you suspect your cramps are cause by dietary deficiency you may want to get blood analysis done at the Pinewood Natural Health Centre in Toronto to find out which minerals are lacking in your body; iv therapy can also help your body regain its mineral balance and stop the leg cramps
• A doctor may prescribe over-the-counter medications such as anti-inflammatories or muscle relaxants like Robaxacet to stop the cramps but supplementation with herbal remedies such as skull cap, valerian, passion fruit or hawthorn berry may help relax the muscles without the need for these rugs
• If the problem is alcoholism or dependency on pills, biofeedback, which is also offered at the Pinewood Centre may help you
• There are natural ways of treating back pain compression through the use of massage, infrared therapy and chiropractic treatments
• Losing weight can help with arteriosclerosis and diabetic conditions that might be contributing the compression of nerves and veins in the limbs\

For more information about leg cramps, nutrition or to book a consultation about anti-aging, naturopathic testing, weight loss programs or any health issue you may be experiencing, visit the Pinewood Natural Healthcare Centre website that has a list of full services and products at or call our Toronto Office at (416)-656- 8100. We also have an office in Pickering, Ontario at (905)-427-0057. You can also email us at and we would be happy to answer any question that you have about our holistic health services.

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