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What are Home Remedies for a Charley Horse?

By Shannon Kietzman
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A charley horse is a type of muscle spasm that most frequently occurs in the leg, though it can occur in any muscle. Hot weather and exercise can both cause a charley horse to occur. These spasms can also happen during the night while a person is sleeping. In all cases, the spasm is typically caused by dehydration and lack of potassium.

In order to prevent a charley horse, a person should stretch before engaging in exercise. In addition, the workout routine should be modified appropriately to ensure it is not too strenuous. Drinking fluids while exercising, particularly those that increase potassium, also helps prevent the condition. Eating bananas also helps increase potassium levels.

If a charley horse does occur, soaking in a tub of warm water with some Epsom salts added can help ease the pain. Typically, it is best to soak for about twenty to thirty minutes in order to obtain results. Simply rubbing the muscle can also relieve the pain. It is important always to rub with the muscle that has been affected by the spasm, rather than across it. If the charley horse occurs in the calf, which is one of the most common spots for it to occur, it is best to rub from behind the knee toward the heel.

Since dehydration and lack of potassium can cause this condition, drinking water and eating foods with potassium can sometimes help to make it go away. Similarly, stretching – particularly the calf – can help make the pain and the spasm subside.

Another remedy for the condition is to cut up three small lemons, one small grapefruit, and two small oranges and place them in a blender, peels and all. After blending these together, add a teaspoon of cream of tartar and blend again. This mixture helps to relieve the stiffness associated with a charley horse. Two tablespoons of the mixture should be taken orally along with two tablespoons of water twice a day. Ideally, one dose should be taken in the morning and another should be taken before going to bed.

Vitamin supplements can also help alleviate a charley horse, particularly if it is brought on by a vitamin deficiency. Taking 400 IU of vitamin E may also help.

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Discussion Comments
By anon358148 — On Dec 09, 2013

I have always found if you get a charley horse in your calf to put your bare foot on something cold like a tile floor or tub. It works for everyone I've told.

By anon326318 — On Mar 21, 2013

I've gotten relief from a swig of quinine water (tonic water) when the cramp hits or as a preventative. That tends to suffice unless I've really overexerted, gotten too hot or gotten dehydrated. Fruit, vitamins, water and half a potassium supplement tend to keep the cramps at bay, but sometimes activity, cold weather or diuretics will take their toll.

When cramps are hard or frequent even after taking the usual precautions, I combine all the hints given so far (and a megadose of prayer) until the pains subside. I tend to get immediate relief when I take the quinine and walk a bit. The trick is to notice the warning signs (or previous experience), keep electrolytes in proper balance, use massage and stretches and watch your circulation. Check with your doctor about cramps, neuropathy or any pain that affects your quality of life.

By anon222582 — On Oct 15, 2011

This home remedy is not going to sound very logical at first, but I have found that it works at least half the time. Whenever I feel a charley horse coming on, especially in the morning when I wake up, I pinch the area between my nose and upper lip really hard and hold it until the cramp subsides. For some reason, the charley horse spasm doesn't seem to last as long or get as severe if I do this.

I've heard about the potassium level problem that often triggers these things, but I'm more likely to get a bad cramp in my calf muscle whenever cold air gets under my blanket and hits my bare lower leg. One morning, I had four or five charley horses right in a row, and my foot ended up sticking straight out. I thought it would never end, and the pain was unimaginable. I could see the muscle contracting pretty violently under my skin. I'm now a lot more careful about letting cold air get under the blanket in the morning.

By anon192858 — On Jul 02, 2011

I woke up in the middle of the night one time and my leg was in the air. I thought why is my leg in the air? Then when I went to put it back down I got a charley horse. Ii was so bad I almost cried! I got them when I was a kid and I still get them. It's always at night.

It doesn't seem to have to do with anything other than I have heard that I move a lot in my sleep. I've been known to kick and scream and sit up. I even got one in my neck one time. That was the worst. The pain lingered for a week at least. I have really tense dreams most of the time. Not sure why.

By anon140241 — On Jan 06, 2011

Pickle juice is the answer. Football players use pickle juice when they get cramps while playing. It takes the cramps away immediately. It doesn't taste that bad either.

By anon132179 — On Dec 05, 2010

sleep with ivory soap bar in bed.

By anon119021 — On Oct 16, 2010

Hot water soak for 15 20 minutes. dry, put on wool soaks and turn on warming pad. I am able to sleep.

By anon112833 — On Sep 22, 2010

My grandma always recommended a few spoonfuls of pickle juice. I suppose it works the same as the salt water. She drinks Gatorade as a preventative measure. I get them in my calf muscles, the arch of my foot, and in my toes when pregnant. Nothing really helps. I just have to deal.

By anon112335 — On Sep 20, 2010

I have had charley horses for years in the middle of the night. I have tried stretching and everything while I am walking around half asleep.

I have just drunk a glass of salt water and within minutes or seconds, it goes away and i can go back to sleep!

By anon104214 — On Aug 15, 2010

I have problems keeping my potassium levels up even with medication so I have plenty of experience in dealing with these painful leg cramps.

An easy drug free remedy that works nine times out of 10 is the second you feel it coming on is to violently shake your leg from the knee down for 30 seconds or so. My charley horses usually happen when I am in bed and I have learned to recognize the early warning signs that one is about to happen. As I said it doesn't always work, but most of the time it does! Cheers.

By anon81411 — On May 01, 2010

An old man told me to drink a glass of salt water when one hits. I've tried it many times since and it relieves the spasm almost instantly!

By anon78443 — On Apr 18, 2010

I have never been officially diagnosed with charlie horse. I wake up in the night with a terrific pain my toe. I simply get out of bed and stand and it goes away almost immediately

By anon77376 — On Apr 14, 2010

I'm wondering if this is in some way seasonal? I take every supplement, vitamin and mineral know to humanity. Last year I was in bed recovering from surgery on my foot for six weeks, and certainly was as far from exercising as possible. I even got it in the leg that had the cast on, which was increasingly weak from the cast.

This year, I confess I have been regularly exercising, but no more than I have for five years. If I don't stretch the opposite way, the pain is unbearable.

I also have double charley horses, in which I get them on opposing sides of the leg - calf, thigh, etc. That makes it impossible to stretch.

I need to get someone to physically massage the muscles to get rid of it. I wonder what the real cause and solution is.

By anon58396 — On Jan 01, 2010

Quick relief with mustard. I get those little packets from burger restaurants and keep next to my bed.

When the pain hits, I open a packet, squeeze it all out into my left hand and slap it on the pain area and rub it in. Relief in seconds! I told my brother about it, he tried it and thanked me the following week. Try it - you'll like it. kShe

By anon54538 — On Nov 30, 2009

"In all cases, the charley horse is typically caused by dehydration and lack of potassium."

Rubbish. I drink plenty of orange juice (cut by half) all day in addition to plain water.

By jennifers — On Apr 12, 2008

Also, even though it hurts horribly, it helps to grab your toes and pull back. It hurts really badly for a few minutes but then it actually relieves the pain. That's the best remedy I have found, since I can't usually plan for a charley horse, so taking something beforehand doesn't usually work. I always need immediate relief myself!

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