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Leg Cramps & Charley Horses


Leg cramps or often referred to as a charley horse is a painful involuntary spasm or contraction in the leg muscle, typically lasting anywhere from a few seconds to about a day. The muscular spasm or contraction can involve any section of the leg from foot to the quadriceps.


There are many potential causes of charley horses and leg cramps. Some of the most common beliefs center around dehydration or a low potassium and magnesium level as being the cause of one’s leg cramps (although the medical evidence to support these beliefs is mixed at best). Medical science also suggests a correlation between leg cramps and other more serious conditions such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), neuropathy, and even pregnancy. Given the extremely long list of possibilities, it is probably safe to conclude that leg cramps and charley horses are not unique and attributable to one single medical condition but is evident in many potentially unrelated conditions. Varicose vein disease is but one potential condition that must be considered in those who suffer from persistent legs cramps and charley horses.


Immediate relief from a leg cramp or charley horse is typically found by massaging or stretching the foot, ankle or affected area. The acute objective is to counter the muscle-tightening spasm by stretching the affected muscle(s) in the opposite direction to the spasm. By countering the spasm, a person can often times attain immediate relief from the discomfort associated with the acute muscular spasms.

Addressing the underlying cause for one’s leg cramps and charley horses is ultimately the long-term goal. Since the potential list of underlying conditions can be extensive, the first step should be to consult with your primary care physician. A proper medical screening should be conducted in order to identify and address any potential underlying medical conditions that may be the etiology behind the cramps. If the cramps do not resolve despite treatment, a thorough evaluation for vein disease should be conducted by a phlebologist (a physician specializing in the treatment of Vein disease). Clinical evidence has shown that vein disease and the venous circulatory compromise arising from this condition can manifest in the form of leg cramps and charley horses. Addressing this venous circulatory defect can helps to prevent the development of future leg cramps and charley horses.

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