St. Luke's Hospital
Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
America's 50 Best Hospitals
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia

    Print-Friendly
    Bookmarks

    Charley horse

    Muscle spasm

    A charley horse is the common name for a muscle spasm. Muscle spasms can occur in any muscle in the body, but often happen in the leg. When a muscle is in spasm, it contracts without your control and does not relax.

    Causes

    Muscle spasms often occur when a muscle is overused or injured. Things that might bring on a muscle spasm include:

    • Exercising when you have not had enough fluids (you're dehydrated).
    • Having low levels of minerals such as potassium or calcium.

    Some spasms occur because the nerve that connects to a muscle is irritated.One example is a herniated diskirritates thespinal nerves and causes pain and spasm in the back muscles.

    Spasms in the calf often occur while kicking during swimming. They can also happenat nightwhen you arein bed. Upper leg spasms are more common with running or jumping activities. Spasm in the neck (cervical spine) can be a sign of stress.

    Symptoms

    When a muscle goes into spasm it feels very tight. It is sometimes described as a knot. The pain can be severe.

    Exams and Tests

    To diagnose a spasm, your health care provider will look for tight or hard muscles that are very tender to the touch. There are no imaging studies or blood testsfor this condition. If the spasm is caused by nerve irritation, such as in the back, an MRI may be helpful to find the cause of the problem.

    Treatment

    Stop your activity and try stretching and massaging the affected muscle at the first sign of a spasm.

    Heat will relax the muscle at first. Ice may be helpful after the first spasm and when the pain has improved.

    If the muscle is still sore after heat and ice, you can usenonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicinesto help with pain. In more severe cases, your health care provider can prescribe antispasm medications.

    After you get treated, your health care provider should look for the cause of the spasm so that it doesn't recur. If an irritated nerve is involved, you might need physical therapy or even surgery.

    Drinking water or sports drinks when exercising can help ease cramps due to dehydration.If drinking water alone is not enough, salt tablets or sports drinks may help replace minerals in your body.

    Outlook (Prognosis)

    Muscle spasms will get better with rest and time. The outlook is excellent for most people. Learning how to exercise properly can prevent spasms from occurring regularly.

    You might need other treatments if an irritated nerve caused the spasm. Results from these treatments can vary.

    When to Contact a Medical Professional

    Call your health care provider if:

    • You have a muscle spasm with severe pain.
    • You have weakness with your muscle spasm.

    Even if your spasms are not severe, your health care provider can help you change your exercise program to reduce the risk of spasms in the future.

    Prevention

    • Stretch to improve your flexibility.
    • Change your workouts so that you are exercising within your ability.
    • Drink plenty of fluids while exercising and increase your potassium intake. Orange juice and bananas are great sources of potassium.

    References

    Brinker MR, O’Connor DP, Almekinders LC, et al. Physiology of Injury to Musculoskeletal Structures: 1. Muscle and Tendon Injury. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr, Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez’s Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 1, section A.

    Geiderman JM, Katz D. General principles of orthopedic injuries. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2010:chap 46.

    BACK TO TOP

          A Closer Look

            Self Care

              Review Date: 4/13/2013

              Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

              The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
              adam.com

              A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and chrome browser.


              Back  |  Top
              About Us
              Contact Us
              History
              Mission
              Locations & Directions
              Quality Reports
              Annual Reports
              Honors & Awards
              Community Health Needs
              Assessment

              Newsroom
              Services
              Brain & Spine
              Cancer
              Heart
              Maternity
              Orthopedics
              Pulmonary
              Sleep Medicine
              Urgent Care
              Women's Services
              All Services
              Patients & Visitors
              Locations & Directions
              Find a Physician
              Tour St. Luke's
              Patient & Visitor Information
              Contact Us
              Payment Options
              Financial Assistance
              Send a Card
              Mammogram Appointments
              Health Tools
              My Personal Health
              mystlukes
              Spirit of Women
              Health Information & Tools
              Clinical Trials
              Health Risk Assessments
              Employer Programs -
              Passport to Wellness

              Classes & Events
              Classes & Events
              Spirit of Women
              Donate & Volunteer
              Giving Opportunities
              Volunteer
              Physicians & Employees
              For Physicians
              Remote Access
              Medical Residency Information
              Pharmacy Residency Information
              Physician CPOE Training
              Careers
              Careers
              St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
              Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Patient Notice of Privacy Policies PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile