You’ve likely experienced it before. You’re waking up from a peaceful night’s sleep and slowly starting to stretch out in bed, when all of a sudden, you feel it, the dreaded calf cramp. Most know it as a Charley Horse, I call it the devil’s grip because of the massive pain and agony that it causes.
A charley horse is a sudden and uncontrollable muscle spasm which usually lasts for a few seconds to a few minutes but the after pain can linger on for about a day or two afterwards. Although painful, they are usually not a huge cause for concern unless they become persistent or debilitating which could signal an underlying medical condition.
Anyone can fall victim to the dreaded charley horse regardless of their physical health however, they are more common in athletes, the elderly, and pregnant women.
My experience with calf cramps
In my first pregnancy, I experienced calf cramps once in a while. They would usually hit me in the middle of the night as I changed positions in bed or when I moved my toes in a certain way. quite frankly, I almost thought it was natures way for getting me prepared for labor and delivery as the pain was so severe at times that I would be crying in the middle of the night.
In my current pregnancy however, I have experienced calf cramps on a much more frequent basis. Over the last week alone, I have had at least one calf cramp a night, and the thought of them striking again makes me to dread dread going to sleep some nights. I like to think of myself as having a fairly high tolerance to pain but even I cannot handle the severity of the pain some times.
What’s probably even worse than the cramp itself is the after pain that usually follows and lingers for a couple of days. It can be debilitating and quite frankly, annoying as all heck. Coupled with my preexisting back pain and the dozens of other pregnancy side effects, It can really get in the way of my daily life.
What my Midwife recommends
I recently brought up the issue to my Midwife to see if she had any suggestions. One of the biggest advantages of selecting a Midwife over a Doctor for primary care is the fact that she has more time to spend with each of her patients to answer questions and offer reassurance as needed. What’s more, my Midwife is a huge advocate for minimalism and supports my decision to use as little medical intervention as possible (unless absolutely necessary).
The following advice regarding my calf cramps was taken directly from my Midwife. She advised that sometimes, the exact cause for a calf cramp especially in pregnant women, cannot always be determined. she did however make the suggestion that implementing the following lifestyle changes may offer some sort of relief.
Doesn’t hurt to try them right?
- Increase your calcium and potassium intake. Apparently, a lack of basic minerals can lead to painful leg cramps. In addition to taking a vitamin supplement, consuming calcium rich foods such as spinach, fish, milk and other calcium fortified products such as cereals and oatmeal can be beneficial. Foods that are rich in potassium include bananas, potatoes, and dates among others.
- Stretch prior to going to bed. This is something I say I am going to do but always fail at doing. It’s important to stretch out both the foot and the calf muscle prior to getting into bed every night. Or try massaging the area or having someone else massage it for you, It helps to facilitate circulation and get the blood flowing to the muscle. A good stretch to try can be found here.
- Drink more water. Making sure to stay hydrated, pregnant or not, is extremely important in the prevention of muscle cramps. Fluid helps to keep muscle cells hydrated as helps muscles properly contract and relax. It is recommended we consume about 8 glasses of water a day. To make the process a bit more tolerable for those who don’t like plain water, try adding a bit of lemon or ice.
- Soak in an epsom salt bath. When my midwife offered this advice, the first thing I thought about was, “who has time for that?” I still tried it though, and it really did help. Apparently, epsom salt is rich in magnesium sulfate which is an essential mineral that can help ease painful muscles and restore mineral balance. It also helps the body relax so It’s really a good choice to relax and unwind at the end of the day.
Epsom salt in a bottle?
If you’re like me, you’ve already tried all of the above methods on a daily basis except for the epsom salt bath. Afterall, you’re busy and I get that. Many of you, much like myself, have a toddler or two running around so a bath is the last thing on your mind. I have a solution for you. I recently discovered the ProCure Epsom Salt Rub. It’s basically the equivalent of taking an epsom salt bath in a convenient tube.
I applied a little on my calf this morning after a terrible cramp which lasted for what seems like forever. I did feel some relief after applying it on one calf so I proceeded to rub the product on my other calf as well. It was still sore from the day before so the product, which comes in gel-form felt extremely soothing.
What I love about it besides It’s extreme convenience is the fact that it is a guilt-free natural product which combines magnesium sulfate enriched epsom salt, with the soothing properties of aloe vera in a fragrance free formula.
Have you ever had a charley horse and if so, what do you recommend for someone to try and get rid of it?