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Whoa! 7 Natural Charley Horse Cures

Those painful leg and foot cramps can ruin a good night's sleep. Here's a list of our best natural remedies for when one strikes, and what you can do to prevent them from "cramping" your style!

Ever wonder why a pain in your leg is called a  “Charley horse?” This term is all-American and no one seems to know exactly why we have such an interesting name for a leg cramp. Did you know you’re twice as likely to get a Charley horse in the summertime? So how do you get rid of them when they strike? 

Why Are They Called “Charley Horses”?

Some believe that the name came from a lame horse named Charley, who pulled the roller on the Chicago White Sox ballpark in the 1890s. Others say it has everything to do with baseball pitcher Charley Radbourn. His nickname was “Old Hoss” and stories say he got cramps during baseball games in the 1880s.

Wherever the name originated, these painful leg cramps are no fun. Try these 7 home remedies for Charley horses:

7 Charley Horse Home Remedies

  1. Put your bare foot on a cold floor. Some say it will make a leg cramp disappear.
  2. As soon as the leg cramp happens, pull your toes up toward your knee and it may disappear.
  3. Magnesium oil is a good natural remedy for muscle cramps. Massage the oil into the cramp and it will be relieved within minutes.
  4. Take a swig of dill pickle juice.
  5. Mix a tablespoon of vinegar with a teaspoon of honey and drink up.
  6. Elevate the area. Try to raise the affected area by putting pillows under it or propping it on an armrest.
  7. Ice it. Ice may help calm down the muscle spasm. Place an ice pack or cool compress wrapped in a towel on the area the Charley horse is affecting. Keep it on for 10-15 minutes.

To Prevent Future Charley Horses:

  • Stretch regularly, especially before and after working out, and before bed.
  • Wear good, comfortable, supportive shoes.
  • Don’t overextend yourself. Whether working out or doing household chores, listen to your body and don’t push yourself beyond your capabilities.
  • Drink plenty of water on a regular basis. During workouts, or on very hot days, switch to a sports drink to replace electrolytes that are lost through your sweat.
  • Drink alcohol and coffee in moderation, as they can contribute to dehydration.
  • Eat foods that are rich in potassium and magnesium, such as whole grains, bananas, dates, raisins, apricots, cabbage, broccoli, citrus fruits, tomatoes, potatoes, corn, and fish.
  • Eat the recommended daily allowance of dairy products, such as milk and cheese, and talk to your doctor about whether you would benefit from a calcium supplement.
  • Make sure your bed sheets are loose. Tight-fitting sheets can force the legs and feet into awkward positions.

For most people, Charley horses are a mild and occasional annoyance. If you experience leg cramps on a regular basis, visit to your doctor. Frequent muscle spasms can indicate a more serious underlying condition requiring medical attention.

Do you have any home remedies for when a charley horse strikes? Share them with us in the comments below!

This article was published by the staff at Farmers' Almanac. Interested in becoming a guest author? Contact us to let us know!

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Kathy

I’m having terrible restless legs; nothing helps! Any other suggestions? I have chronic low back pain! I can’t sleep! Please help with ideas! Ready to choose surgery for my low back pain!

Susan Higgins

Hi Kathy, we have a story on restless legs that may help: You can find it here.

Tammi

Tums, yep the antacid it’s the calcium, keep by your bed. Chew a couple. Works almost instantly.

Last edited 2 months ago by Tammi
Laci

Charley horses best remedy is a shot of pickle juice and a heating pad they also have over the counter pills called Hylands leg cramps at Walmart they work wonders!!

April

I need to try these!

Jodi

I had one this morning. I took some ultima electrolyte drink mix in water and started to drink that. The CH immediately stopped. Any electrolyte with magnesium will work.

Melinda Terrie Miller

Anytime you,have a charley horse eat one teaspoon of mustard and it will disappear instantly works everytime

Susan Higgins

Great, thank you Melinda, for the tip!

Kathy

I found that when you are having a Charley horse attack, drinking about 6 or 8 ounces of tonic water stops the cramp in about 10 or 15 minutes. It doesn’t matter if it’s diet tonic, for those who are calorie conscious.

Lois O'Connor

Sprinkle paprika on your tongue and swallow. It works almost immediately. You can feel the cramp loosen and subside, even the worst leg or thigh cramps.

Sandi Duncan

Interesting! We hadn’t heard of that one Lois, thanks for sharing.

Lisa

After having some of all the foods and supplements in ones diet, trying all the other remedies and tricks for “leg cramps” to no avail, you might try getting the really good stuff. I found some of this when searching online about back pain. Get it from Loosethebackpain.com.
My remedy protocol is to drink some pickle juice. Drink some water. Take three Heal-n-Soothe. Rub the whole limb with Rub On Relief. (These are from LivingWell Nutraceuticals.) If the cramps come again in the same evening, repeat the whole protocol again.
This cramping mostly happens to me because I overworked doing the yard work (usually 3 or more hours). If this occurs, I just immediately do all things listed as soon as I get in from working, because I know it is bound to happen and not having to go through that pain is worth every penny I spent on the good stuff.

Cynthia Harnack

Just stand up and rest your full weight on the effected leg. The charley horse goes away instantly. It really works good for me.

Apache

I always associate Charley Horses with dehydration, that’s why you get them more in the summer.

TT

I take 500 mg of magnesium tablet. It works in a minute for me & others I know. But you might want to consult your doctor first, to make sure it’s a safe thing for you to do.

Barbara

Eat a tablespoon of Yellow mustard.

nancy

Put your hands on the wall and walk backwards as far as possible to put pressure on that muscle

Barb Potter

I put a hot cloth on the cramp and it goes away instantly.

Denise S Harper

Pickle juice works wonders. I don’t eat pickles however I have plenty of pickles on hand just for the juice. I also take a jar of pickles when we travel.

Eileen Eger

I use a tablespoon of yellow mustard and if necessary another tablespoon if really bad. It’s like a miracle goes away right away

Elaine

Someone told my late husband to eat a tablespoon of prepared mustard for charley horses and swore by it.

Carol Guthrie

Lavender oil always works for me.

Kathy

Do u mix with a carrier oil or put on straight??

Jim

Tonic water with quinine was recommended by my GP and it works

Dixie Wilkins

Accupressure point is earlobe. When I awaken with a cramped leg muscle, I pinch the earlobe of the side cramping. Pinch it HARD, and do not release until you feel the cramp has left. Hal Linden taught me this when he hosted FYI in the 1980’s. I worked as a waitress and believe me it has really helped me throughout the years.

Marcella

Hot water brings immediate relief. My friend gets into a hot shower to get rid of a Charlie horse. Eating bananas regularly also helps prevent them.

Marguerite

I use a blow dryer on high on the area and run it and it goes away. I get the really bad ones on the top of my ankle.

Elaine

Watermelon! High in potassium and will help rehydrate

BETTY Shepherd

Put a bar of soap under your fitted sheet helps while in bed

Elizabeth Guinette

I’ve never heard of that. Do you know why/how it works? It sounds great. That’s when I get cramps, in bed late night..

Lisa Goodinson

My husband says he’d rather suffer the pain than drink the dill pickle juice. He despises pickles so much! lol

alice martinez

A simple white string works wonders and you wont get a charlie horse while you have it on. Put it on each of your ankles and leave it there..

Jessica Torres

I immediately looked at the last name of the person with the solution for using white string…I laughed because this is a Hispanic remedy passed thru generations..usually it is said for a baby with colic or fussy take a piece of white string wet it with saliva and put it on the babies forehead!! And…no more crying or fussy baby!! Gotta live the Hispanic home remedies.. they’ve worked my entire upbringing! Thanks to Gramdma!

Rebecca Norwood

I was told be a retired semi driver to put a piece of cotton string around my ankles as I had Charlie horses so severe that my legs get bruises from them I have them over my entire body even my face and most of the time I’m crying uncontrollably from the massive pain. So I tried it. I did it on my rt leg first for a week to see if it really worked. I had Charlie horse in my left leg almost every night that first week and NOT ONE in my rt leg at all. So I put the string around my left ankle as well and it’s been 3 weeks in my rt n 2 weeks in my left leg without a single Charlie horse. An Indian medicine man told him to try this over 40 yrs ago and he has done it ever since and has not had 1 nope not even 1 Charlie horse since. Not quite sure how this works but it does!!!

B Daniell

Drink a glass of orange juice, which has lots of potassium. If you’re diabetic, drink sugar-free Tonic water. Also, Hyland leg cramp disolvable pills. Leg cramps can be excruciatingly painful.

JD

Two words. Tonic Water. Tastes awful but within 30 seconds it’s gone. I have terrible thigh Charlie Horses and the Quinine in the tonic water does the trick

Linda K Ladman

Put sodium free flavoring in your tonic water per my heart doctor and by my kidney doctor only drink 1 cup before bedtime.

JOY

I found that by lifting the affected leg benefits best when I lift upward toward ceiling and use both hands to almost simultaneusly stroke down toward the heart in constant combination place a good grip around the middle arch. and pinch all toes at once while focusing pressure on the ball of the foot in rotation is a home run.

Nina

Happy to see the last comment was made in Jan 2019.
I get “charley horse” cramps in both my calves but never at the same time. I wake up at night in excruciating pain, where I am unable to even get up. I have prescription magnesium, and eat healthily. The cramp often brings tears as there is nothing I can do. I drink a gallon or 2 of water every day & have tried all of the above. Bar 1. Ivory soap. I can’t wrap my head around a bar of soap helping. Can any one explain how this could work?
Personally I have noticed when I drink alkaline water instead of bottled water, they don’t occur as often. Cramps usually indicate a lack of sodium & I have only used Himalayan Salt for the past 10 yrs.
The reason I’m commenting on this is because my calf muscle still hurts for up to 48 hours after the charley. It feels similar to over excercising & you wake up the next day unable to negotiate even the smallest flight of stairs. I can’t be the only one who has pain after the onslaught of such disabilitating muscle spasms? They never happen anywhere else in my body or while I’m awake.
Suggestions or clarity anyone?

Susan Higgins

Hi Nina, we get many comments from our readers that they suffer from leg cramps like you describe, which is why we try to post this story on Facebook often. People find it helpful. Think of a back spasm, or a pulled muscle, the pain of which can last for days. The muscles in your legs suffer the same consequences and can be very painful until they heal. Try to stay off them and massage helps. We hope you’re getting some relief.

Lucy

Nina I’m trying to find something also. They say it’s the limonene in the soap. I’m gonna try it, and keep the mustard and pickle juice close by. I’ll try anything that’s may work quickly !

Darlene

I agree with #15, my husband gets leg cramps and grabs the mustard. Works every time! Mustard works for other things too.

keith

While checking remedys for leg cramps, It looked to me like not having enough potassium was the reason. I buy potassium pills and if I get a leg cramp at night, I take a couple and within minutes the cramp completely disappears.

Diane Briscoe

As soon as the cramp begins, stand up and put weight on that foot, making sure full foot is in contact with the floor. Good-bye Charley Horse.

Ric

For me it is a calcium thing. I noticed the connection that if/when I ran out of milk, the next day I could expect a horrendous leg cramp. Thus, I make sure not to run out of milk, and I have one large glassful (at least) every day. Even though I have yogurt and cheese almost daily, if I miss the milk the cramps happen, and they are very painful. With the milk I have not had any issues of cramping.

Debra H.

Pinch the center of your upper lip as hard as you can take it and take deep slow breathes. Concentrate on the muscle and make your mind relax it.

Helina

I am a nurse; I stand and walk miles a day. I would get horrible leg cramps. I now sleep with a bar of soap by my feet. Any brand works, just changed the soap every so often for a new bar when it stops working. It works for me.

RONNIE

Why the bar of soap…

Susan Higgins

Hi Ronnie, it’s been a remedy passed down for generations. Scientifically, the jury is still out on it. Some chock it up to the placebo effect. Others think there might be an as-of-yet-to-be-identified molecule the soap is emitting.

Donna

My liver doctors told me to drink Gator Adie. The G2 when possible. It replaces the potassium and magnesium we lose daily. I drink one every day or at least 3 to 4 a week. I haven’t had a leg cramp since the doctor said this will work

gloria

I get cramps in muscles all over the body from neck to toes, sometimes more than one muscle at a time. Seen many doctors, even had nerve conduction tests done (more painful than the cramps, if you can imagine that!), was told by that specialist I had “severe muscle cramps.” Wow, brilliant diagnosis! I want to know how to prevent them. There are dozens of remedies for when they happen. I’ve tried every one of these remedies except the string around the ankle. Even if it’s psychological, which it most likely is, I’m about ready to try it. Why can’t science figure this out? My PC says, “oh I get them too, walk it off.” I’m so sleep deprived from “walking it off.” I want a preventative that works.

Brenda

I use CoQ10 to combat the muscle spasms induced by the use of statins to lower my cholesterol. WORKS like a charm. I also cannot do extra calcium as I get kidney stones but the CoQ10 absolutely does the trick. I used to get muscle cramps in the middle of the night that woke me from a sound sleep and kept me awake for literally hours. Now I may get a mild one once in 2 or 3 months and it goes away in less than 5 minutes.

Mary

The hardest part of dealing with “Charlie Horses” is breaking the cramp. I have had them so bad in my calves that I didn’t think I would be able to get off the ball of my foot with my entire weight on it. It gets scary sometimes!

Kate Sullivan

Medical Marijuana is very specific for muscle cramps – and it does NOT take a lot at all. It has literally saved the life of my friend with MS. MM and muscle cramps or spasms is a match. This is not a comment on recreational use.

JoAnn

So many great ideas. I have tried many except the soap, which I will try next. I take 1000u VitE, Magnesium 400mg and a prescription muscle relaxer at bed time and still get cramps. I get into a shower as hot as I can stand it when they strike. Sometime they strike 2 or 3 times a night. I have tried drinking a glass of salt water (suggested by a dr). The lingering pain/soreness for me responds to a muscle rub over the affected area. I have a prescription for Voltaren for arthritic pain and use it and it works well. I haven’t tried an OTC muscle rub but will if I am out of the other. I get cramps when I an tired, been on my feet too much and did to much walking. I also tried a Magnesium I bought on the internet that really helped. Good luck.

Kay Mott

I too use the shower as hot as I can stand it for relief. It works! I get plenty of minerals in my diet, and most of my spasm come at night but not all. By elimination of high fructose corn syrup from my diet they have subsided to a tolerable amount.

Erica Fulton

Joann I just want to tell you I really appreciate the arm suggestion I am definitely going to try that I think my body is lacking some of the essential vitamins my body needs and out of all things I have arthritis and I have Voltaren it is wonderful so I am going to try it on my foot the darndest thing is it was I had a lot of Charlie horses just come up in my feet out of all things that’s a very rare thing for me usually in the legs but this was in my feet kept cramping up so I’m gonna try the Voltaren and a few other things; but first I am gonna try your suggestion and see how it works and get back with you thank you for the suggestion; Plus one thing I liked about the comment she made would you suggest is something that no one else has a hurt one of the same calm as magnesium potassium anything that has potassium in it I am a bar soap mustard and all these different things heat anyway nobody suggested the one thing that I do have and that is the Voltaren which I use cause I have some and very difficult time with arthritis I’ll let you know how that goes thank you so much

Rick Berry Jr

It’s not so much the dill or the pickle juice that helps it’s the mustard. Most if not all dill pickles have mustard seeds in them. What I do is take a teaspoon or two of mustard when cramps will not stop mostly at night is when it happens. if you want some sleep try it, works. Doesn’t sounds very good just drink some water or juice after. sleep well.

Londa

CoQ 10 immediate care. Replaces the enzymes in your muscle you lose as your age. Especially if you’re on a cholesterol pill it depletes your system of Coq10 trust me it works hundred percent of the time.

Asia

I only get a cramp once every couple of years. I got on here to determine if my cramp last night was due to the tums or the CoQ10 I unusually took before bed. These were the only 2 things different for me about last night.

E S C

I have found pointing your toes toward your head works great for relieving charlie horses. I have gotten charlie horses that were so severe, my foot would get twisted into knots. I found that if I put my toes on a flat surface like my wall. Then roll my foot from toes to heel, till my toes were pointed towards my head. Then kept my foot in that position, till I felt my muscles in my leg begin to relax. It really works wonders.
To prevent charlie horses from coming back in the future. Drink plenty of water and eat foods high in potassium. Although, because I have kidney disease. I have difficulty keeping the potassium from bananas in my system. So my kidney doctor prescribed me a supplement. It is working great, I haven’t had a charlie horse for a very long time.
Though unrelated, I have another great tip for cyst, Mix equal parts of apple cider vinegar and honey. Drink four shots a day for about 1 week. It will get rid of the cyst. It really does work. I have seen it with my own eyes. So if your doctor tells you that you need surgery to remove a cyst. Try this first. Hope this helps.
I also keep Epsom salt in my house. It helps for a great many things. Like bee stings, splinters, a cut that has started to get infected etc. I call it the cure all.

Pat

Take 400 units of magnesium daily and you won’t get leg cramps.
If you forget your magnesium, tale 2-3 potassium pills when you get leg cramps. Pain will disappear in 1-2 minutes. I used to be up half the night walking on a cold floor. Potassium and magnesium have freed me from horrible leg cramps…sometimes even in my thighs.

Donna

I take magnesium 500 mg -800 msg every night- I have taken this amount for 6 or more months- ‘but I have IBS and the magnesium creates dirreaha
I am getting horrible thigh cramps for the last couple of weeks- so now what?

Lucy

DOnna, I hope you found some relief. Try Magnesium Glycinate. No diarrhea.

Paula

I use Keith’s (# 11) remedy of pinching the gristle in your nose. I have been doing it for years and now very seldom even get a ‘charlie horse’. And if I do it is gone in seconds. Also there is no hard lump left over for hours like I used to have. My friends laugh at me but it works!!!!

patricia radakovich

FYI OLD WIVES TALE

Laugh all you want but this is the only thing that works for me. Im 68 and discussed this prob. with my dr. All my levels are where they should be. I stretch and I exercise. Here you go.. Bar of Ivory soap has to be Ivory. open it up and place it between the fitted sheet and the mattress pad/cover replace about every 4 months. Laugh all you want but my grandmother used to do it and to this day it works for my family

jean savage

Take a teaspoon of mustard and the cramp will disappear

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