Charley Horses Make Your Legs Want to Die. Here’s How to Stop Them.

What to do when a charley horse strikes

If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being stuck in charley horse hell, there are a few tricks you can use to fight off the beast.

First, if you’ve just woken up and you’re in bed with shooting pain in your leg, stand up. This will promote blood flow and kickstart circulation again. The same goes if you’ve been sitting too long.

Next, bust out the foam roller or start stretching your muscles. Applying direct heat can also help the muscle relax, followed by ice to ease the pain.

While you don’t need to add a bunch of silly bubbles to enjoy the effects, soaking in an epsom salt bath — especially after a grueling or extended workout — helps prevent charley horses from happening in the first place, and can provide relief if you’re mid-attack and happen to have an epsom salt bath ready. Otherwise, you might want to give something spicy a shot; there’s some new evidence that suggests a mixture of chilies and ginger could help relieve cramping, albeit the kind you get from prolonged physical activity.

If all else fails and you still feel nagging soreness after a few hours or over a day, you might as well pop an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

Keep in mind that another preventative measure you can take is to drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after exercising. You may even need to up your potassium or electrolyte intake to combat the issue. And once you get it figured out, you can enjoy making it through the night without a violent, stabbing pain interrupting your slumber.

Facts on muscle cramps

  • Anyone who has experienced a muscle cramp (charley horse) can attest to the fact that it can be quite painful. Muscle cramps or spasms occur when muscles involuntarily contract and cannot relax.
  • The term charley horse has been used to refer to painful muscle cramps, particularly when they occur in the leg.
  • The skeletal muscles (those over which we have voluntary control) are most prone to cramping.
  • The skeletal muscles in the calf, thigh, and arch of the foot are most notorious sites of cramps.
  • Cramps can be perceived as mild twitches or may be excruciatingly painful. Typically, cramps cause an abrupt, intense pain in the involved muscle.
  • Often a muscle that is cramping feels harder than normal to the touch or may even show visible signs of twitching.
  • Most cramps resolve spontaneously within a few seconds to minutes.

What causes a muscle cramp?

It is not known exactly what causes muscle cramps to develop. Insufficient stretching before exercise, exercising in the heat, and muscle fatigue may all play a role in their causation. Imbalances in the levels of electrolytes (sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium and phosphate) in the blood can also lead to muscle cramps.

Cramps can occur when you are resting, sleeping, or participating in sports or other daily activities. Anyone can develop a muscle cramp but infants, the elderly, the overweight, and athletes are at greatest risk for muscle cramps. Athletes most often develop muscle cramps at the beginning of a season when their body is not yet fully conditioned. Cramps in athletes can occur during or after periods of physical exertion.

How do I stop or prevent muscle cramps?

If you get a muscle cramp while exercising, one strategy is to stop your activity and hold the cramped muscle in a gently stretched position until the cramp resolves. If a cramp occurs when you are lying down, you may want to do just the opposite — put weight and walk on the cramping leg. Light massage may (or may not) help alleviate the pain.

In athletics, you can also help prevent future muscle cramps by always warming up and stretching well (especially the muscle groups prone to cramping) before workouts and maintaining adequate hydration when exercising. Sports beverages rather than water may help prevent electrolyte imbalances such as low sodium levels (hyponatremia).

Check with your doctor if you have frequent or unusually severe muscle cramps that do not appear to be associated with exercise or do not improve with stretching and massage. Muscle cramps in the legs that come on with exercise can be a sign of a more serious condition called intermittent claudication due to poor circulation of blood to the legs.

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Updated January 25, 2019.

Q: What causes a “charley horse” and how do I prevent one from occurring?

A: While the origin of the term “charley horse” is unclear, its meaning is all too familiar: a sudden, involuntary spasm or cramp of a large muscle, typically occurring in the calf (gastrocnemius), thigh (quadriceps), or hamstring. A charley horse can be caused by a direct blow or sudden stretch of the muscle, but most of the time they’re caused by strain or fatigue during exercise. If you aren’t properly conditioned or if you haven’t adequately warmed up before physical activity, your muscles may not receive sufficient blood flow, which can result in cramping. Cramps are also more likely to occur if your body is low in minerals like sodium, calcium, and potassium, which play critical roles in muscle function. Poor diet, dehydration, and use of medications such as diuretics can all be associated with mineral depletion.

A charley horse will usually go away after a few hours or days. However, gentle massage or holding the muscle in a stretched position will help resolve the cramp more quickly. Ask your doctor or physical therapist if you are unsure about specific stretches for certain muscles. Tight muscles will often respond to heat as well. A warm water bottle or heating pad applied in 20 minute intervals will help increase blood flow to the cramping muscle.

To prevent muscle cramps, try these tips:

  1. Stretch regularly before and after exercising to increase your flexibility.
  2. Do workouts that match your level of physical fitness. Build up to harder, more intense workouts gradually rather than overusing and straining your muscles.
  3. Eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of potassium-rich fruits and vegetables. Oranges and bananas are especially good sources of potassium.
  4. Stay well-hydrated before, during, and after exercise.

If you develop recurrent cramps that disrupt your sleep, make an appointment with your health care provider. In some cases, medication may be helpful.

Got a quirky health question? Email it to us and we may answer it on the blog!

5 Ways to End Muscle Cramps

“About a quarter-mile from the finish, I started to sprint. I could feel muscle twitches in my quads, and my quads were burning. I had to slow down as I felt the cramp coming on. Then wham! Like a sledgehammer to my leg, the cramp hit and I had to stop and rub it out. What could I have done to prevent that muscle cramp?”

This is a common question among athletes. Muscle cramps are involuntary, intensely painful muscle contractions that nearly every athlete has experienced at some point. Some people experience them often and simply seem to be prone to muscle cramps.

What Can You Do?

Cramps usually hit at the end of intense workouts or during endurance events because fatigued muscles are more likely to cramp. Novice athletes are more likely to have cramps as they fatigue more quickly than seasoned exercisers. If you carefully progress your workouts, you will avoid unnecessary cramps. Heat, and not being used to the heat, also increases the frequency of cramps. When the seasons change and summer arrives, ease into workouts in the heat.

Additionally, carefully plan your fluids, electrolytes and carbohydrate intake to help avoid or delay muscle cramps.

Are You Drinking Enough?

Studies on fluids and cramps have produced mixed results. Some studies find no associations, while other show that consuming fluids and electrolytes to avoid dehydration will prevent, or at least delay, muscle cramps. The benefits of avoiding dehydration are widespread, so even if it’s not 100 percent guaranteed that you won’t cramp, consuming adequate fluids during exercise will still improve performance.

How would dehydration cause muscle cramps? Fluids in the body are either inside the cell or outside of the cell. When we become dehydrated, the fluid outside of the cells decreases. Reductions in fluids cause nerve endings to be squished together, overexcited and spontaneously discharge. That spontaneous discharge is a muscle twitch, which can lead to a muscle cramp. By maintaining proper hydration, you can prevent dramatic shifts in fluids that contribute to abnormal muscle contractions.

To prevent dehydration, start by drinking fluids according to your thirst. Weigh yourself before and immediately after exercise, preferably without clothes. Any change in your weight is a change in fluid balance. Weight loss greater than 2 to 3 percent of your body weight increases your risk for muscle cramps. If drinking based on thirst prevents fluctuations in your weight during exercise, then you can rely on thirst to be your hydration guide. Otherwise, you need a hydration schedule to meet your fluid needs.

The Need for Salt

Fluids aren’t alone in the task of maintaining your body’s fluid balance. Electrolytes control the shift of fluids in and out of cells. The electrolyte of most concern during exercise is sodium. Found as sodium chloride in table salt. We lose more sodium in sweat than the other electrolytes. Both water and sodium are lost in sweat. Replacement of water without sodium can lead to dangerously low blood sodium levels, called hyponatremia. Hyponatremia will also occur if you are sweating a lot and simply losing a lot of sodium in sweat. This is most likely to occur during endurance exercise or with repeated sweating throughout the day. Muscle cramps may occur when the concentration of sodium in the blood decreases; cramps can progress to a serious medical emergency when hyponatremia is not treated.

To prevent hyponatremia and the muscle cramps it may cause, sodium should be consumed with fluids. This is particularly useful for cramp-prone individuals. High sodium sports drinks can delay muscle cramps in those who cramp often. Sodium may be consumed from salty foods (such as pretzels) or through sports products.

Don’t Be Afraid of Carbohydrates

Carbohydrate depletion will also lead to muscle cramps. Carbohydrates are the primary fuel used during exercise. There is a finite amount of carbohydrate stored as glycogen in our muscles to provide the energy to exercise. Once that store of glycogen has been exhausted, we are at high risk for muscle cramps. The muscle requires carbohydrate (or energy) to contract; it also needs energy to relax. When there isn’t adequate fuel circulating yet we continue to exercise and contract our muscles, muscle relaxation is impaired, and the cramp occurs.

It takes about 60 to 90 minutes of exercise to deplete glycogen stores. Therefore, it is appropriate to consume carbohydrate during any activity that will last longer than 60 to 90 minutes. Even very intense exercise lasting only 45 minutes may deplete glycogen stores. Be sure to eat a carbohydrate-rich meal or snack prior to endurance or intense exercise. Plus, you will need to consume carbohydrates through food or sports products during longer duration exercise. Consuming carbohydrates appropriately is well-worth it to prevent a muscle cramp.

Follow these five steps to prevent muscle cramps:

  1. Train appropriately.
  2. Acclimate yourself to the environment.
  3. Consume the right amount of fluids for your body to prevent dehydration.
  4. Choose salty foods or sodium rich sports products before, during and after exercise.
  5. Prevent carbohydrate depletion by consuming carbohydrates before your workout and during your workout if it is longer than 60 to 90 minutes.

Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest for more tips, recipes and ideas to fuel your ACTIVE life.

READ THIS NEXT: 15 Workout Milestones Every Fit Person Should Reach

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How to Avoid Muscle Cramping During Exercise

I have a strong personal interest in learning how to avoid muscle cramping during exercise, because I used to be a chronic sufferer of Exercise Associated Muscle Cramping (EAMC) back when I was competing.

Muscle cramps are very common, affecting between 40 and 95 percent of athletes at some point (depending on which survey you read). As a result, they have been widely studied, yet no one really knows the full story about why they occur.

Despite this, over the last decade I seem to have largely managed my issues with cramp by modifying my behavior, diet and expectations of my body. I did this over time through education and experimentation.

Here are some of the things I’ve picked up along the way in case they help you win your own war on cramping:

Why do I get muscle cramping during exercise?

The “Dehydration/Electrolyte Theory”

This theory speculates that a significant disturbance in fluid or electrolyte balance, usually due to a reduction in total body exchangeable sodium stores, causes a contraction of the interstitial fluid compartment around muscles and a misfiring of nerve impulses, leading to cramp.

In simpler terms, if you lose a lot of sodium and don’t replace it (as is common when you sweat a lot), this can cause fluid shifts in the body that in turn cause your muscles to cramp up.

This theory is predominantly based on plenty of case studies, observational data, anecdotes and expert opinion (what scientists call “level 4 and level 5 evidence”).

One example is a classic study on salt depletion that was carried out by a pioneering doctor—R.A McCance—in the 1930s. Essentially what McCance and his co-workers did was subject themselves to an incredibly low salt diet. Along with their salt-free food, the subjects drank plenty of water and took hot baths to increase sweat output and accelerate salt loss. They found that when salt depletion started to kick in it quickly led to:

“… aberrations of flavor, cramps, weakness, lassitude, and severe cardio-respiratory distress on exertion.”

Interestingly, as soon as the test subjects reintroduced salt into their systems (eating bacon and drinking the fat from the pan I might add) their recovery from these symptoms—including the absence of further cramping—was dramatic, with effects being felt within 15 minutes of ingestion of the salty meal.

This experience in particular, cramps disappearing soon after salt ingestion, is completely consistent with my own experiences in very long and hot triathlons when I had become salt depleted due to heavy sweating. As such it definitely struck a chord with me when I first read it.

Another example directly from the sporting world came in 1996 when Dr. Michael Bergeron documented a case study (in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism) of a tennis player who often suffered with cramps during tournaments. Having ascertained that the player had a high sweat rate and was unlikely able to replace his sodium losses through his normal diet, he was prescribed an increased salt intake. The conclusion of the study was that:

“ was ultimately able to eliminate heat cramps during competition and training by increasing his daily dietary intake of sodium.”

This tallies with our experience at Precision Hydration. We recently conducted a survey of athletes who had reported suffering with muscle cramps at one time or another. Of the survey respondents (more than 200 mostly endurance athletes) 89 percent said that they had found that supplementing with sodium or salt during exercise had helped them manage or eliminate EAMCs, with just 11 percent reporting that this method had failed to help at all.

Although there’s a decent amount of circumstantial weight behind it, it lacks the more “concrete proof” of data from large scale, randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that are rightly considered necessary by proponents of evidence-based practice for it to be widely accepted as anything approaching fact.

These days it’s become quite fashionable for commentators seeking to ‘disprove’ the dehydration/electrolyte theory of EAMC to play down this early work in industrial medicine around salt and cramping as dated, flimsy and insignificant. This is especially true for staunch supporters of the neuromuscular theory (detailed below). However, having read (and re-read) most of the work available from the era, I’m far from convinced that it deserves to be so easily dismissed.

The “Neuromuscular Theory”

This theory is more recent and proposes that muscle overload and neuromuscular fatigue are the root causes of EAMC. The hypothesis is that fatigue contributes to an imbalance between excitatory impulses from muscle spindles and inhibitory impulses from Golgi tendon organs and that this results in a localized muscle cramp.

In other words, muscles tend to cramp specifically when they are overworked and fatigued due to electrical misfiring.

One big factor that does appear to support the neuromuscular theory is that stopping and stretching the affected muscles is a pretty universally effective method to fix a cramp when it is actually happening. What stretching does is put the muscle under tension, invoking afferent activity from the Golgi Tendon Organs (part of the muscle responsible for telling it to relax) and causing the cramp to dissipate.

A Quick Word on Pickle Juice

In the last five years or so (and somewhat connected with the rise of the neuromuscular theory) there has been a lot of interest in the use of compounds that can stimulate something in the mouth called “transient receptor potential (TRP) channels” and the possible effects these might have on cramping muscles.

TRP channels connect the mouth into the central nervous system and the hypothesis is that stimulating these receptors somehow causes a ‘jolt’ reaction down the nerves that disrupts the signals that are causing a cramp.

Substances that stimulate TRP channels are things like wasabi, mustard oil and other pungent spices and it’s thought that this is where the idea of using pickle juice to cure muscle cramps (a common practice in the USA in particular) comes from. Pickle juice contains acetic acid and it’s believed to be this (rather than the high levels of sodium in it) that stimulate the TRP receptors and help relieve cramps.

This would explain why cramps have sometimes been shown to be relieved almost instantly when pickle juice is ingested (the nerve stimulation happens almost instantly, whereas the sodium in it takes several minutes to travel to the gut and to be absorbed into the blood). It’s also consistent with the the general idea that the root cause of some cramp is found in the nervous system rather than solely an electrolyte imbalance.

One Theory Doesn’t Rule Them All

At this point it’s important to steer your thinking away from this being a binary “one or the other” argument between two competing ideas, even though this is how the topic of cramping is commonly presented in both the scientific world and through mass media.

The bottom line appears to be that muscle cramps are likely to have multiple causes including, but not limited to, electrolyte imbalances and neuromuscular fatigue and that, as a result, it’s likely that multiple interventions are likely to be needed to try to eliminate these different types of cramp. In our survey of hundreds of athletes who reported suffering from cramp, 97 percent of them had tried more than one method in an attempt to alleviate the issue.

So, How do I Avoid Muscle Cramping During Exercise?

There’s no “magic bullet” available to kill off muscle cramping at the moment and it doesn’t look like there will be one coming anytime soon.

However, if you’re not inclined to sit around twiddling your thumbs waiting for science to deliver in it’s own sweet time, there are a few things you might want to try if you suffer from EAMC.

1. Try reducing fatigue

Because it seems highly likely that fatigue is also implicated in muscle cramping during exercise, finding ways to minimize this is also logical. As obvious as many of them may sound, try to make sure you tick all of the following boxes to ensure you’re not overloading your body excessively:

  • Train specifically for the event(s) that tend to induce cramps, i.e. with the right mix of volume and intensity to prepare your muscles for what is going to be asked of them.
  • Pace yourself appropriately based on fitness levels and environmental conditions to avoid overloading muscles prematurely.
  • Taper into events so that you are fresh and well rested when you start.
  • Make sure you’re adequately fueled with plenty of carbohydrates on board before you start events and that you fuel adequately during activity to avoid becoming glycogen depleted (which can contribute to premature fatigue).

2. Try consuming additional sodium

This is definitely a good idea if your cramps tend to occur during or after periods of heavy sweating, in hot weather, later on during longer activities, or if you generally eat a low sodium (or low carb) diet.

One note of caution: if you do take on additional sodium, especially in the form of electrolyte drinks, make sure they are strong enough to make a real difference. Most sports drinks are extremely light on electrolytes (despite the claims they make on their labels), containing only about 300 to 500 mg sodium per liter (32oz).

Human sweat, on average, comes in at over 900 mg of sodium per liter (32oz), and at Precision Hydration we often measure athletes losing over 1,500mg per liter (including myself) through our Advanced Sweat Test. It’s therefore a good idea to look for upward of 1000mg sodium per liter in a drink and over 1,500mg per liter if you suspect you are a particularly salty sweater. A good way to see where this should fit into the rest of your hydration strategy is by taking this free online Sweat Test.

If you’re consuming salt or sodium separate to your fluids, in foods or capsule form, aim for a similar ratio (i.e. 1,000-1,500mg sodium along with each liter of water you drink) and remember that table salt (NaCl) is only 39 percent sodium (the other 61 percent is chloride), so you need about 3g of salt to give you about 1,170mg of sodium.

Take the extra sodium in the hours immediately before and during activities that normally result in cramping and see how you get on. You’ll know pretty quickly if this is effective or not, and can fine tune your dosage to balance cramp prevention with keeping your stomach happy over time (really excessive salt or sodium intake can cause nausea).

When I first started taking in additional sodium before and during long, hot triathlon races the effect was immediate and dramatic. I went from cramping up almost every time, to almost never having problems again. I ended up settling on a regime of consuming around 1,000 to 1,500mg of sodium per hour during long races (I lose a lot of salt in my sweat, 1,842mg/l in fact) and I also found that taking this amount eliminated post-race cramping almost entirely as well.

Other strategies

Other strategies that are far from proven, but that either make intuitive sense or have been used by athletes in the war on cramp include:

  • Sports massage and stretching of the affected muscles.
  • Acupuncture
  • Thorough warm-ups prior to cramp-inducing activities.
  • Mental relaxation techniques.

Although none of these are likely to offer a complete solution, they are generally accessible, inexpensive and may even benefit performance in other ways, so there would seem to be little downside to giving them a try.

Hopefully this overview of the major theories on what causes Exercise Associated Muscle Cramp have left you feeling better equipped to fight your own war on cramp.

You’re sound asleep, and then, without warning, you wake up with a paralyzing stiffness in your calf or foot.

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Whether you call it a foot or leg cramp (aka “charley horse”), it’s a common, somewhat mysterious pain that happens when a muscle gets involuntarily stiff and can’t relax.

“They tend to happen more frequently as we age,” says sports and exercise medicine physician Kim Gladden, MD. “While they can be uncomfortable, they are rarely harmful.”

Here’s what causes these cramps, as well as tips to help prevent them.

RELATED: Your Feet Hold Clues to Clogged Arteries

7 common causes for cramps

Whether day or night, your foot and calf muscles can spasm or cramp. This can happen to various muscles — not just in the legs or feet — though these cramps are often most uncomfortable.

Causes for muscle cramps include:

  1. Lack of hydration.“If you are experiencing cramping, it’s important to look at your hydration first,” Dr. Gladden says. You want to make sure you are drinking enough water throughout the day.
  2. Problems with nutrition. While a balance of electrolytes (calcium, sodium, potassium, and magnesium) is essential for the contraction and relaxation of a muscle, it’s best not to simply self-treat with supplements. “Taking excess supplements if you don’t need them can be harmful,” Dr. Gladden says. Instead, she suggests eating a variety of foods with plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables. This includes leafy greens and fruits, including bananas, to add a balance of electrolytes to you diet.
  3. Side effect of medication. Some medications such as statins and furosemide (Lasix®) can also cause muscle cramps. A tip-off is when cramps start suddenly after you begin taking a new medication. If this happens, see your practitioner.
  4. Not stretching enough. Taking time to stretch each day, including after a brief warm up or after a shower can help. “You want your muscles to be as strong and supple as they can be. Adequate stretching after a brief warm-up period is key to this,” Dr. Gladden says.
  5. Overexertion. If you exercise harder than usual or experience muscle fatigue, this can cause cramps. Pace yourself.
  6. Poor circulation. If you have cramping that increases when you walk, it could be a problem with your circulation. “Some circulation problems cause pain that feels like cramping. If it gets worse when you walk, or if you have cramps that just don’t stop, definitely see your doctor,” Dr. Gladden says.
  7. The wrong shoes. A less-known cause for muscle cramping: your shoes. “You want to look at your shoes, especially if you changed from flats to heels. This also can cause cramps,” Dr. Gladden says.

RELATED: How to Choose the Best Shoes for Your Feet

How to stop leg and foot cramps

There are some simple ways to respond to leg and foot cramps:

  • If it happens while you are lying down or in bed, try to simply stand up and put some weight on the affected leg or foot. This can sometimes be enough to stop that tender stiffness.
  • Use warmth/heating pads to increase blood circulation to the muscle and to relax it. Soaking in a warm tub of Epsom salt can also help ease the tension.
  • For more stubborn pain, you can try a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen.

Easy stretches to keep calves and feet happy

Here are some simple stretches that can help stop pain and prevent it.

Basic calf stretch

This calf stretch is commonly used by runners. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Stand with your palms placed against a wall, with arms stretched out
  2. Step back with leg of affected calf
  3. Lean forward on the other leg and push against the wall

You should feel a stretch in your calf muscle and the back of the leg.

Towel stretch

Do this stretch while you sit:

  1. Keep legs outstretched in front of you
  2. Point the toes of your affected foot at the ceiling so that the leg is engaged
  3. Take a towel or neck tie and wrap it around your foot, holding it with both hands
  4. Lift the leg slightly until you feel a good stretch

RELATED: Foot and Ankle Pain Treatment Guide

Keep cramps from happening again

Here are some tips to prevent leg cramps:

  • Stay well hydrated
  • Stretch each day, especially before you exercise
  • Limit or avoid alcohol
  • Eat a balanced diet that includes natural sources of calcium, potassium and magnesium
  • Increase your activity level gradually

If leg or foot cramps are occasional occurrences, you can generally manage them yourself. However, if they happen frequently, are severe, or if you are concerned any of your medications are the culprit, talk to your doctor. They could signal a medical problem that requires treatment.

Your calf is formed from two leg muscles, the gastrocnemius and the soleus. The calf powers the Achilles tendon, which controls the heel. Pain in the calf is usually the result of inflammation or injury to these muscles or the tendon. Follow a few simple massage techniques to relax the calf and promote healing.

Sit in a chair. Remove shoes and clothing so your feet and legs are bare. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor.

Stroke your calf muscle. Starting at the ankle, press the sides of the index fingers against the back of the leg and move the hands upward. Stop when you reach the back of your knee. Repeat 10 times.

Rest the belly of your sore calf muscle on the knee of the other leg. Use your thumb and fingertips to press the muscle and then release it. Continue this kneading motion for 3 minutes.

Shake the belly of your calf muscle. Use your hands to bounce and wiggle the calf. These techniques relax the muscle.

Locate knots. These are places where the calf muscle has not fully relaxed, producing pain. Use your fingers to dig into the belly of the calf and isolate the problem areas.

Massage the calf with your fist. Using circular motions gently press into the calf muscle. Cover the entire width and length of the calf.

Complete the massage by repeating the techniques in Step 2.

Tip

Try massage oil to warm up the calf. Substitute a rolling pin or massage stick tool to deliver long massage strokes. If your massage techniques produce pain, reduce the force used or stop the massage.

How To Massage Your Shins, Calves, and Ankles.

Caroline JordanFollow Oct 9, 2017 · 2 min read

Do you have pain in your shins, calves, ankles, or feet? Learn how to massage your shins, calves, ankles, and lower leg with this Shin and Calf massage video routine.

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6-Weeks to STRONG BODY program

To do this video you will need:

  • Yoga Tune Up Therapy Balls in a tote
  • Yoga Block

Do you have pain in your shins, calves, ankles, or feet? Learn how to massage your shins, calves, ankles, and lower leg in this video. I will guide you through simple self massage sequence you can do to relieve tight muscles, tension, and pain in your shins, calves, and lower leg. Taking a few minutes to massage the muscles in your shins and calves can be powerful in helping you move better and feel better in your body. Self massage exercises like the ones performed in this video can help you prevent injury or recover from injury.

As always: please check with your doctor or physical therapist before starting this or any exercise routine. This video is not intended to prescribe or diagnose medical advice. Listen to your body and honor what you need to do to feel your best.

How To Massage Your Shin, Calves, and Ankles Video Routine

Read these other links for more help with your shins, calves, and feet:

Help for shin splints

Help for tight calves

More ankle and foot videos to help you live pain free

Leave me a comment below and let me know how you feel when you try this video! If you liked this video, please LIKE it and share it with your friends on facebook, twitter, youtube, and email. Thanks for your support and for joining the healthy, happy, community online.

Love and happy feet,
Caroline

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Calf Muscle Massage

Question:
I ran my first 5k a few months ago, and I totally caught the running bug. I’ve signed up for several more races including a relay and a trail run, and I’m having the time of my life. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed my calves cramping up a lot, particularly when I’m running on a more uneven surface. This happens no matter how well-hydrated I am or how much I warm up before my run. Is there a particular massage for calf muscles that can relieve my cramps?

Answer:
The most difficult part about treating cramps is understanding what’s causing them. It’s important to warm up before runs and make sure you’re well-hydrated, which it seems you’re already doing. You might also consider taking a look at your diet to make sure your cramps aren’t caused by a nutritional deficiency. If you don’t address the underlying cause, your cramps will return regardless.

That being said, it has been demonstrated that massage is an effective technique to relieve muscle spasms and cramps, as well as the soreness they leave behind. For example, since patients on hemodialysis often experience lower leg muscle cramps, they were the target of a study published in the International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. Patients who received 20-minute massage three times a week for two weeks experienced significantly less cramping, leading researchers to conclude that massage was an effective way to address muscle cramping.

Deep-tissue massage and Swedish massage are the two most common massage types used to combat muscle cramps and spasms. If you’ve never had a massage before, you may want to start with a Swedish massage, which is gentler than deep-tissue massage. Swedish massage acts on the principle that poor circulation causes a build-up of waste products in your muscle tissue. This build-up leads to muscle weakness and fatigue, which eventually leads to cramping. The massage therapist uses a technique called effleurage – long, directional strokes with flattened hands and fingers – to increase the circulation in the area. In contrast, deep-tissue massage uses deep pressure to relieve built-up tension in the muscles.

To treat cramps, it’s a good idea to schedule a massage soon after a run where you’ve experienced cramping. You can book a massage therapist to arrive at the location of your choosing in as little as an hour. Keep in mind that if your muscle is still actively spasming when the massage therapist arrives, massage may damage the muscle. Communicate clearly with your massage therapist so they can choose the best techniques to provide you the relief you need. It’s also a good idea to schedule a follow-up massage a few days after a cramping episode, just to keep your muscles loose and increase blood flow to the area.

International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork: “Intradialytic Massage for Leg Cramps Among Hemodialysis Patients: a Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4868507/

Id.

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5 Stretches You Can Do In Bed

It was the end of Day Five on Mount Kilimanjaro, and my hips were mad at me.

On that particular day, we’d warmed up with a relatively flat 4.3 mile hike in the morning, followed by a nasty four miler that had a steep, practically V-shaped decline and incline section, plus a long, slippery descent into our camp for the night in the pouring rain. To be honest, I couldn’t really blame my hips for talking back to me; I was just thankful they weren’t rebelling any more than that.

But I knew I needed to do something to placate them before starting all over again the next day. The problem? It was pouring rain outside, and the square footage of the two-person tent I was sharing with my little sister meant that I had less than a twin bed sized space to myself, with about four feet of vertical space in which to sit upright. I was beginning to understand how people who live in New York feel about apartment size.

With a little bit of improvisation and a lot of wiggling around on top of my sleeping bag, I was able to flow through a few different stretches lying down. I woke up the next morning refreshed (well, as refreshed as you can be when sleeping on the ground) and with quiet, well-behaved hip muscles.

Whether you’re trying to recover in your tent during a multi-day hiking trip or just too lazy to stand up, try these stretches you can do lying down for literally the easiest way to recover ever. Feeling extra slothy? Do these stretches in bed before you turn the lights out for a relaxing nighttime routine.

Knee to Chest Stretch

Lie on your back with your legs extended. Bend your right knee in towards your chest, clasping your hands in front of your shins to increase the stretch. Your left leg stays long. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.

Reclining Pigeon

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Cross your right ankle over your left knee, making a figure four position with your left foot still flat and actively flexing your right ankle. From there, reach your hands and clasp the back of your left thigh, bringing your left foot off the ground and your left knee in closer towards your chest. Keep your shoulders on the floor and your upper body relaxed. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.

Lying Side Quad Stretch

Starting from a lying position, roll onto your left side, propping your head up in your left hand. Bend your right knee, grabbing the top of your right foot with your right hand and gently pulling your heel towards your butt. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.

Happy Baby

Lie flat on your back with your legs extended towards the ceiling. Bend your knees in towards your chest and grab for your arches with your hands. Your hands will wrap around the outside of your feet, and your knees will be a little wider than your torso. Rock back and forth or side to side to gently massage your lower back while in this hip-opener.

Reclining Goddess Pose

Lie flat on your back with the soles of your feet touching so that your legs make a diamond shape. For extra support, place a block under each of your knees (or, if you’re me on a hiking trip, one huge hiking boot under each knee).

(Disclaimer: This workout is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor is it a replacement for seeking medical treatment or professional nutrition advice. Do not start any nutrition or physical activity program without first consulting your physician.)

4 Stretches You Should Be Doing Before Bed

We already know that we should be winding down 30 minutes before visiting dreamland for the night. If you’re not sure how to fill that time, a little yoga session will surely help you out. Not only is stretching before bed beneficial for your health, but no more random charley horses in the middle of the night, too. Use these stretches in combination with your breathing exercises to create the most relaxed night of your life.

1. Knees to Chest

For those days when you’ve been hunched over your desk or anything else that can strain your back, this exercise will help you alleviate further pain.

  1. Lie flat on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the ground.
  2. Bring one leg into your chest. You may also choose to pull in both knees at once.
  3. Wrap your hands around your shin and push down slowly to feel the stretch.
  4. Hold for 10 seconds before returning knee to its starting position.
  5. Repeat with opposite leg.

2. Arm Circles

There are a ton of sleeping positions and some involve sleeping on your arms. Let’s stretch those bad boys out so you’re well rested in the morning and don’t lose circulation. Nothing worse than trying to get out of bed and having your body stuck in a pose because it hasn’t been properly stretched or utilized.

  1. Stand straight up with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms extended out to your sides, parallel to the ground.
  2. Start circling your arms forward in small motions. Continue to expand your circle until you feel the stretch.
  3. Keeping your shoulders down, circle your arms 20 times before switching directions.
  4. Circle your arms backwards for another 20 times.

A post shared by Teri O’Connor, E-RYT 500 (@njbeachyoga) on Sep 15, 2017 at 1:20pm PDT

3. Butterfly Pose

Time to work out those legs for a great stretch. The butterfly pose is a beginners yoga move that you can practice and get better at every day.

  1. Sit up straight on the floor, legs extended out.
  2. Bend both knees outwards. Your feet should be pressed together.
  3. Grab your feet, pulling them as close to your body as you can.
  4. Start your breathing regimen while you lower your knees becoming as parallel to the floor as you can (do not strain yourself if you cannot touch the ground, this is why you practice). Fly like a butterfly as you raise and lower your knees.
  5. Fly for 30 seconds and once you feel the stretch until you return to your starting position.

4. Seated Calf and Hamstring Stretch

After a long day of walking or exercising and not stretching afterwards, you might have gotten a dreaded charley horse. A charley horse is a sudden contraction of a muscle in the back of your calf that can cause agonizing pain for seconds or minutes until you stretch it out. Time to be proactive.

  1. Sit up straight on the floor or firm bed, legs extended out.
  2. Keeping your back straight, lean forward and reach for your toes (or until you feel the pull).
  3. Hold for 30 seconds.

One of the BEST things you can do for your body is to:

While we sleep, our bodies move into and out of many different positions. But who knows how long it stays that way?.. Until you wake up and something hurts.. like your neck or back.

Here are 5 quick and easy stretches to start off the morning BEFORE you get out of bed.

Below you can watch a quick video of me performing each stretch. Hold each stretch for 8 to 10 breaths. In the video I just went quickly through each stretch.

Also, read detailed descriptions below the video on how to perform each stretch.

1. “Good Morning” – Lying on your back, reach your arms up over your head, arch your back as it lifts away from the sheets, lengthen your legs and take 2 nice, long, deep breaths in… and out. This stretch is used to wake up your body, lengthen your spine, and lets your body know you are getting ready to move.

2. “Knee-d a Hug” – Lying on your back, draw your knees up toward your chest, wrap your arms around the top or behind your knees and give them a hug.. relax your neck and shoulders. Slowly and gently, rock from side to side. Press your lower back into the mattress and take 5 slow, deep breaths, in… and out. This stretch is great for releasing tightness in the lower back.

3. “Supine Spinal Twist” – Lying on your back with legs extended, draw your right knee up toward the chest and hug it in. Use your left hand to help guide your bent right leg across the left side of the body and let the knee relax down. Open the right arm and turn your head to the right, and take 5 slow, deep breaths in… and out. Repeat for the left side. These stretches feel amazing to the hips, lower back, and chest even!

4. “Hamstring Stretch” – Lying on your back with legs extended, draw your right knee up toward the chest. Wrap both hands around the back of the leg (either above or below the knee) and extend the right foot up toward the ceiling. Pull the leg closer to the chest, and begin to rotate the ankle around in big, slow circles. Taking 5 long, slow, deep breaths.. ease deeper into the stretch. Repeat for the left side. These stretches are important to help loosen up your lower back, hamstrings, hips, knees, and ankles.

5. “Nice Neck” – Follow this sequence in a slow, smooth fashion to avoid any injury. First, sit up tall with your legs draped over the side of your bed, and sit on your hands. Then, tuck your chin to your chest and slowly look down, extending one cervical vertebrae at a time. Slowly lift the head back up. Next, lift the chin as you look up to the ceiling, but do NOT let your head fall all the way back. Second, turn your head and look toward the right, aiming to peer behind the right shoulder. Take 5 deep breaths here, and slowly repeat to the left side. These neck stretches will help to relieve the pain from sleeping on pillows either too big or too small.. and will start to improve your range of motion in the cervical spine.

Please, try these stretches to best of your ability, and if you feel any sharp pain.. you may have gone too far. Let your breathing be your guide, and take it slow! The rest of your day may be filled with the rush, so take this time for YOU. And if it is your first time stretching before you get out of bed, let me know how you feel afterward!

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Stretches for the calves

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