Whoa, Boy: Putting A Stop To Painful Charley Horses In Your Feet

If you're lying in bed or reclining on the couch after a hard day, nothing kills your relaxation more effectively than a charley horse forming in your foot. These extraordinarily painful muscles spasms are almost unbearable, and if you suffer from them on a regular basis, you might be wondering what you can do to put a stop to them. If your feet keep saddling up with charley horses, here are some things you should know.


Obviously, the best way to prevent something from occurring is to know why it occurs in the first place. In the case of a charley horse, the most common causes include:

  • poor circulation to the muscles in your feet. Sitting, for example, with your feet tucked underneath your body could mean that you experience charley horses 
  • extreme temperatures, especially during muscle exertion. Exercising in cold weather can constrict the blood vessel. Moving suddenly from cold to hot can shock the muscle, causing the charley horse. The same thing happen moving quickly from warm to cold.
  • neglecting to properly stretch. If you exercise frequently on your feet, like with long distance running, stretching your feet after warm up and after workouts is essential to preventing charley horses.
  • too few vital minerals and nutrients. The nerves that activate your muscles rely on ions from metallic minerals like sodium and potassium. When your body is depleted of these ions with sweat, the nerves cannot communicate properly with the muscles, resulting in painful muscle contractions.
  • dehydration. Water is also a vital part of nerve function. Your body is not able to circulate oxygen to your muscles as well without proper hydration, leading to slower muscle recovery.

As you can see, one of the main unifying causes of charley horses is working your foot muscles without properly caring for them through rest, stretch, and nutrition. However, don't take this as a reason to give up your workouts, as obesity can also lead to low circulation and stress on the feet. 

Stopping Them When They Come

If you aren't as vigilant in taking care of your feet, the key to relief after the onset of a charley horse is getting the muscle to relax again. Unfortunately, this can take several minutes. Common at-home remedies include:

  • massaging the area. This helps to restore circulation to the contracting muscle. Just be gentle in the massage at first, as the initial rub can be quite painful on the muscle. 
  • alternate heat and cold. A heat pack will help the muscle to relax more quickly, but it won't do much for the pain. On the other hand, a cold pack will help with the pain, but it won't do much to help with encouraging relaxation. Alternating between the two allows for a happy medium.
  • standing up. The last thing you might want to do is put weight on a painful foot, but this will improve blood flow to the foot, helping to resolve the muscle spasm more quickly.

Once the muscle has begun to relax, reflect on the list of possible causes and take opportunity to remedy them. Drink some water, eat a banana or take a vitamin, and stretch your feet and lower legs. 


Some people may suffer from frequent, recurring charley horses, and this can indicate a more serious medical problem, such as a chronic electrolyte imbalance or even blood clots. Sometimes, your nerves may be damaged or pinched. If the damage is severe, surgery may be needed to remove the nerve or relieve the compression. If you have recurrent charley horses, talk to a podiatrist at a clinic like Advanced Foot & Ankle Center of Palatine about possible causes and treatments.