Hold Your (Charley) Horses
By Kevin Sterne
Has a nocturnal leg cramp jolted you awake recently? That intense knotting in your calf, commonly called a charley horse, can be your body telling you that you’re dehydrated or low on electrolytes.
“Nighttime leg cramps can be brought on by low levels of potassium, calcium or magnesium, made worse by dehydration, and are more frequent in people with underlying musculoskeletal or neurological disease,” says Victoria Brander, MD, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at Northshore Orthopedic Institute.
Brander recommends taking a daily vitamin and finding time for exercise to keep your body flexible and your legs loose. It also wouldn’t hurt to drink a low-sugar electrolyte drink like Gatorade G2, she notes—just not right before bed, as then you’d be waking up for another reason.
Originally published in the Fall 2016 print edition
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