Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Charley Horse and Calf Cramps


Muscle Cramps
Charley Horses
Leg Cramps

Okay, so this entry is a bit "off-topic", but it's driving me CRAZY!

Have you ever had a Charley Horse? You know, a muscle cramp (usually in the legs) that seizes up so tight that you end up with a minor muscle pull that stays with you for a week or more? No. Okay. Nevermind.

But, if you said "YES, I've had those! They suck!", then read on...

Since 1998, when I ran my first , and, unfortunately, only triathlon, I've had calf cramps. They might be attributed to my training or to my sprained ankle shortly thereafter, or something totally unrelated... I may never know. I've seen doctors, physical trainers, I've had acupuncture, massage, lymph drainage, I stretch, I drink plenty of water, eat at least one banana a day, take vitamins and mineral supplements, and I've even tried shoe inserts. No dice. I still have the cramps. And I need help treating them.

Let me tell you what they're like...
They can occur in two ways: 1) The can come on suddenly, like a sneak attack, or 2) They can begin as a muscle twitch in the calf or Achilles tendon. They can occur anywhere in the lower leg, and are seemingly random in their location. The twitch then becomes a tight muscle with intense soreness. Then that part of the muscle seizes up into a full-on cramp. And, unlike normal cramps, these "charley horses" stick around for a while. Though the worst of the cramp dies down within a few minutes, the soreness and "pulled muscle" feeling remains for up to two weeks.

These charley horse cramps can come on at any time during the day or night. They can attack when I'm walking, running, jumping rope, or just sitting still. However, exercise does seem to aggravate them more than sitting still.

It sounds inconvenient, and it is, but for a person as active as I am (I LOVE to run, bike, jump rope, hike, etc.), it's damn near debilitating. I can't run anymore. I can't jump rope. I can bike and hike, but I have to take it easy. It's very difficult for me, now that I'm on my road trip, to stay in top physical condition aerobically without being able to run.

I guess the reason I'm writing this is in hopes of coming across someone who has had a similar problem, or knows how to treat the problem. Remember, I've tried doctors, PT, acupuncture, Quinine, salt tabs, potassium supplements, mineral supplements, bananas, water, stretching, etc., and nothing helps. Well, one thing seems to be helping a tiny bit: a supplement called Spaz-Out. It's just a collection of minerals to help prevent muscle spasms. I do better on Spaz-Out than I do without it, but I still get the charley horses (just not as often).

As I said in the beginning of this entry, I'm going crazy! I know there is a reason for my condition (if it can be called a "condition"), but I don't know what that reason is. Nobody does.

Do you?


Anonymous said...

I get them at night. They usually wake me from sleep, no matter how deep it is. I can't remember ever having one during exercise or during the day at all. The worst is when I get them over and over again during the night, sometimes in both legs. When that happens, I try to stand up in the morning and practically fall over. I usually get one every one-two weeks. I've started taking multivitamins and stretching more because they've gotten more frequent.

lisa said...

Hi Holt. I'm sorry to hear you are having leg cramps and have tried practically everything. I'm dealing with some neurological stuff after having shingles in october and my latest symptom is calf and thigh cramps. Most of what I read is about nocturnal ones but I'm like you, I get them during the day, and more with activity. Have you tried Magnesium? I was taking Pathway's "Tri-Mag" 100mg/3x per day and it was helping. I had a blood test for my Mg level and it was fine so my culprit is something else or as the doctors say, idiopathic! So I can relate to your frustration. I never had cramps before, maybe one charleyhorse a year. It's all very strange. I tried accupunture too and it did not help. Well, please update me if you get a chance, I'd like to know how you are doing. my email is LMS1965@mac.com. thanks and take care, Lisa

Holt Webb said...

Hi Lisa,

Great to hear from you.

To date, I've added a Gingko Biloba to my supplements, and a daily aspirin to help thin out my blood. I'm also doing some yoga Sun Salutation stretches.

While this still hasn't solved the problem, it has been a while since I've gotten a charley horse. Although, I'm not quite ready to go on a run yet. My calves still twitch and are always tight.

Someone suggested to me that I go see a neurologist. Since I'm on the road (and trying to sort out a health insurance problem), that hasn't proved practical. But, I think it's something I'd like to check out.

Anonymous said...

I was just googling calf cramps, as I get them a lot. I'm pretty sure mine are due to over use - running 5 one mile sprints in the morning and then trying to jump in volleyball.

Reading your post reminded me of another article I came across that sounds more similar to what you have going on. Have you ever heard of intermittent claudication? The article about it is here:


stimps said...

Hi, Holt!

I've gotten these charley horses since I was just a kid, and commisserate completely.

Some years ago (15 or so), a sports medicine trainer told me folic acid was the key, so I should up my orange juice intake, and make sure I started taking a multivitamin that had folic acid in it. You don't need much, but it's kept me from having the cramps for years and years now (until last night... I ran out of my usual vitamins a week ago, and I think I better go back and get some).

Hope it helps you out!!

From The Other Side said...

I have had the same problem for about 2 years. Have tried all mineral supplements and the only thing that helps is a magnesium/ calcium supplement. Once on those for about a month, the cramps are nonexistent. Good luck.

Gra Kay said...

I had episodes like these years ago (I'm a triathlete) and eventually I saw a chiropractor who also did kinesio;ogy. He diagnosed a subluxing navicular (fancy term for fallen arch I think), manipulated my foot and pushed a metatarsal back into place that I had been completely unaware of. It seems that my calf was working over hard trying to correct the problem which fatigued it and caused it to cramp. Hope that helps. Graeme