iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Diedre A. Ware


Go Away, Charley Horse, You Are Interrupting My Life

Posted: 06/08/2013 7:07 am

So, I purchased a pair of psychedelic stilettos for an upcoming oldies dance and have not yet tried them on. In my mind they will fit beautifully and I can see myself dancing effortlessly to the sounds of the 60s and 70s; the Cool Jerk, Mashed Potato, the Watusi, the Twist, the Shimmy, Shimmy Ko-Ko Bop, and be limber enough to dance to Chubby Checker's Limbo Rock.

Honestly, I am not really sure if I can pull that last one off or dance in those stilettos. See, reality set in, reminding me of my recent mild to severe occurrences of muscle cramps (aka charley horse) in my legs, feet, calves, and toes that contract to painful spasms. I have replaced all of my high heels with stylish shoes that are more structured for comfort. It is just when I saw those stilettos I had to have them, if only for one night.

When I was younger I had charley horses from time to time from playing school sports. My mom would literally pull me out of bed and hold onto me as she encouraged me to put pressure on my feet by walking on a cold tile floor until the pain dissipated.

There is no comfort in knowing that muscle cramps are very common and become increasingly frequent with age, especially with women.

I have experienced a lot of sleepless nights, afraid to go back to bed after being jarred out of a deep sleep. A few have reduced me to tears and close to calling 9-1-1. The charley horse will start in one leg and as soon as the pain goes away, you start to feel another cramp with the same intensity in your other leg-or you even have multiple cramps in both legs at the same time. It is an indescribable pain -- the kind of pain you find yourself saying that you would not wish on your worst enemy.

For over a year now I have been dealing with this madness. I cannot sit or sleep on anything too plushy -- it has to be firm or else I am guaranteed to end up with a charley horse. I do not doubt others out there can relate to this interruption in their lives.

One of my remedies is taking a nice soothing bath with Relief's MD Green Tea and Chamomile Scented Epsom Salt; it helps to alleviate the tightness and soreness in your muscles.

In addition, I keep salt, a glass of room-temperature water, and mustard on my nightstand. I open the salt packet first and allow it to dissolve on my tongue, mustard next, followed by a few sips of water, as I make my way to the kitchen, holding on to various pieces of furniture in order to walk on the cold tiled floor.

Moreover, I was deeply concerned that I had developed a blood clot (having seen the outline of the muscle moving around in my calf freaked me out) and made an appointment to see my doctor.

Quinine was once prescribed to cure leg cramps. In 2006, the FDA banned all companies selling drugs containing quinine, although many doctors still legally prescribe off-label prescriptions.

I discovered a few over-the-counter "natural" nocturnal leg-cramp products with small dosages (200-300 mg) of quinine not approved by the FDA. But, tonic water, with its bitter taste, consists of 20 mg of quinine.

There are other remedies I have tried, some in combination, but have not found anything that works long-term, with the exception of visiting a veterinarian for horse lineament and also placing an unwrapped bar of soap (your choice) under your bed sheet where your feet lie -- those will be next.

Lie on your back at bedtime with your toes facing up.
Pour warm water over your spasm muscle.
Wear wool socks to bed.
Pinch the skin between the nose and upper lip for a few seconds.
Drink a sports drink with electrolytes.
Drink coconut water.
Drink plenty of water and eat a lot of green veggies.
Listen to classic music.
Eat more than four bananas a day.
Wear compression socks (the-over-your knees kind) or support hose.
Apply sore muscle creams and check side effects of current medicines.

So, here I sit waiting for Doctor Longeran to walk through the door with my test results; I breathed a sigh of relief when assured that I did not have a blood clot. My potassium, magnesium, and calcium levels were good, although I was a little low on iron. Then he asked what I have done to help alleviate my leg cramps.

I pulled out my list. In addition to this, I confessed that I had a cramp once while makin' whoopee. He clearly looked perplexed as I continued to share my plethora of remedies to fight off charley.

With grace and compassion he told me that I did not have to do any of those things on my list. Really -- now I was perplexed! He said all I had to do was to stretch every morning and every night before I go to bed. Dr. Longeran stood up to show me several different stretches, which took one minute or less and asked me to stand and repeat, which I did.

As my doctor left the examination room, he chuckled and told me to let him know how the soap works on my next visit.

Stretching really works, but old habits die hard; I still keep my stash on my nightstand as an emergency measure, and because I am a woman of my word, I put a bar of soap under my bed sheet so at my next appointment I can tell Dr. Lonegran whether or not it had worked.

I am slipping my pretty brown legs in those psychedelic stilettos-- I will stretch, of course, and have a salt and mustard packet in my purse as a backup. My plan is to have a groovy good time, especially when it is my turn to go low, low under the limbo stick.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

Loading Slideshow...
  • Yoga

    Yoga offers a <a href="" target="_hplink">myriad of wellness benefits:</a> flexibility, balance, centeredness, strength, mindfulness and others. Yoga is a great option for aging bodies, as it promotes working within your own comfort zone. Postures and sequences range from gentle and relaxing to more intensive for advanced yogis.

  • Stretching

    Another way to promote flexibility and overall health is incorporating some simple stretches into your daily routine, be it at home, at the gym or even outdoors. Stretching prevents injury, <a href="" target="_hplink">can relieve back pain</a> and boosts energy. Note: It's important to stretch properly to avoid injury. Check out some good <a href="" target="_hplink">examples of stretches here</a> and these <a href="" target="_hplink">common stretching mistakes</a>.

  • Biking

    Biking is a great low-impact, cardiovascular workout, not to mention it's a lot of fun. There are a few ways to incorporate biking into your routine. Joy rides in your free time are always a good option -- alone or with a group. You could consider joining a local bike group or riding to nearby destinations instead of taking the car. <a href="" target="_hplink">Stationary bikes</a> also have great health benefits. Already a cycler? Here's how to get <a href="" target="_hplink">more benefit from your bike ride</a>.

  • Brisk Walks

    One of the most <a href="" target="_hplink">beneficial exercises</a> is something humans have been doing for centuries: walking. Simple modifications to your routine, like parking further away and walking the extra distance or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, can really add up to boost your overall health. For an even greater benefit, take brisk walks that get your heart rate up.

  • Pilates

    <a href="" target="_hplink">Pilates</a> is another low-impact exercise that's ideal for aging bodies. It's similar to yoga but puts more emphasis on gaining control and balance of the body by strengthening the core muscles. Pilates can be done in a class or at home with a video or other guide. <a href="" target="_hplink">This piece</a> offers a great run-down of the activity, along with images of some classic pilates stretches and workouts.

  • Tennis

    Tennis is a classic sport, well-loved for being fun and <a href="" target="_hplink">great for you</a>. It's a strong aerobic workout and helps keep you agile, especially important as you get older. Tennis is also a very social activity -- great for the body, mind and spirit!

  • Swimming

    Swimming is easy on the body and is also one of the most comprehensive workouts, hitting <a href="" target="_hplink">all the major muscle groups</a>: shoulders, back, abdominals, legs, hips and glutes. If you're getting serious about swimming, it's important to learn proper techniques, but even free-styling in the local pool or outdoors in the summer is a great way to exercise.

  • Dance

    Dancing is one of those activities that doesn't feel like working out, but is an incredible <a href="" target="_hplink">aerobic exercise</a>. It's a good option for those that want more physical activity but don't like the gym or in the winter when it's harder to get outdoors. There are a bunch of styles to choose from: ballroom dancing, contra dancing, salsa, ballet, tap, country and others.

  • Elliptical

    As the body ages, running and jogging can take a toll on the joints, knees or back and potentially cause injury. An elliptical cross-training machine is an alternative to running, which still gets your heart rate up but at a <a href="" target="_hplink">lower impact</a>.

  • Strengthening Exercises

    You can take a simple walk to the next level by bringing weights along to build strength in your arms and boost the cardio benefits. Strength-building techniques like pushups, squats and lunges are easy to do at home or can be squeezed into buckets of free time throughout the day.