Ouch my leg! A question in two parts.
November 9, 2008 5:54 AM   Subscribe

I had a charley horse in my calf three days ago, and I'm still in a lot of pain.

It's been a while since I've had one, but unfortunately I am no stranger to charley horses in my calves. While I don't know exactly what caused this specific one (low potassium and/or significant disruption to my workout routine are likely culprits), it passed relatively quickly and I figured the muscle tenderness would subside by the following day. It's three days later, though, and my calf muscle is still incredibly sore. I know you are not my doctor, but do you have any suggestions for healing the muscle strain?

I had been exercising 5-7 days a week for the past few months, but was really sick these past two weeks, so I only worked out last Monday (which was four days before the charley horse). I'd really like to get back into my routine but even the slightest amount of pressure on my leg is excruciating. I know you are not my personal trainer, but any thoughts on whether I should just exercise through the pain or would that only make things worse?
posted by katemcd to Health & Fitness (13 answers total)
A rolling pin. Go out an buy a rolling pin ($4 at any grocery store) and roll that sucker out. It helps tremendously, both massaging the muscle and spreading out those fibers that have knotted up. Using moderate to hard pressure, roll for a few minutes every ten minutes or so. Do this throughout the day; it will help out a lot.
posted by cachondeo45 at 6:08 AM on November 9, 2008

I was going to suggest some sort of massage as well, but if any pressure on the muscle is painful, then I would suggest the standard muscle-strain prescription of heat and elevation. Keep a hot compress on it as much as possible, and keep it elevated whenever you can.

I'd recommend against strenuous exercise, since it sounds like you've probably torn or at least damaged something. NEVER exercise through excruciating pain! If you are still in pain on Monday or Tuesday, go to the doctor. I've had Charley Horse pain that lasted a few days, but never anything excruciating.
posted by lunasol at 6:25 AM on November 9, 2008

Don't want to scare you, but when this happened to my mom, it turned out that she had a blood clot in her leg. Blood clots are extremely dangerous. Please call your doctor. And don't use massage or a rolling pin until after you've spoken to your doctor. If it's a blood clot, you don't want to dislodge it. It could travel to your lungs and that's bad news.

IANAD and probably, it's something else. But, because it could be something dangerous, I'd have it checked out.
posted by marsha56 at 6:30 AM on November 9, 2008

Hah, props to EndsOfInvention. I would not have even thought to explain it either. The wikipedia description is much more severe than what I grew up with, which was a painful strike on any large muscle (you can get a charley horse on your bicep, say). The effect is similar to that of having one's funny bone hit. But yeah, pretty much anywhere. "Who won the Kentucky Derby in 1869? Charley Horse! [punch]."

Is it actually a Charley Horse, though? Was your calf struck by something? I only ask because you describe the (lingering) pain of a cramp as well, such as you might get when over stretching your legs in the morning. Pace the wikipedia description, I've never heard Charley Horse used to refer to a plain cramp, it's always the punching kind.
posted by rhizome at 7:48 AM on November 9, 2008

In addition to the rolling pin/massage suggestions, but sure to drink plenty of water and stay very hydrated. A few extra bananas for potassium wouldn't hurt either.
posted by smelvis at 7:53 AM on November 9, 2008

I get those every now and then in the middle of the night after particularly harsh runs and consulted my md about that once. the recommendation given was to not roll up but stretch the leg out as much as possible while this happens. this does seem to make them disappear faster for me.
posted by krautland at 8:01 AM on November 9, 2008

Best answer: Hi. Don't recommend a rolling pin - too broad. I would lie on your back or sit on the edge of the bed. Bring your calf over the opposite knee. Use the knee to massage from the very top of the calf in short strokes down to the ankle. Imagine three or four 'strips' running vertically down your leg and make sure you cover the whole area. When you reach an exquisitely painful spot, which is a myofascial trigger point, massage it slowly and deeply so that you feel 7/10 of the maximum pain you could by pressing. Massage each trigger point 6-12 times only. Do both legs. Do this up to 6 times a day until the acute problem is gone, then make it a morning routine to get rid of it for good and prevent future problems. Mail me on here if you have any q's.
posted by Not Supplied at 8:05 AM on November 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

Oh yeah, be extremely gentle with the stretching until the trigger points are gone.
posted by Not Supplied at 8:06 AM on November 9, 2008

Follow the advice of Not Supplied. It will hurt. And it will work.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:20 AM on November 9, 2008

Go to the doctor without delay.

One of the side effects of long term antibiotic therapy is rupture of the Achilles tendon. It doesn't sound like you could have a complete break, but it does sound as if you could have a tear.

DON'T put any unnecessary strain on it until you get it checked out. If the tendon ruptures completely, repair and recovery will be much more complicated and difficult, and the ultimate outcome may not be as good as it would have been.
posted by jamjam at 9:50 AM on November 9, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! Not Supplied, I'm totally going to give that a shot. It sounds painful but also exactly what I think I need.

Rhizome: The first part of the Wikipedia definition is a little misleading, I think. This is a better description of the charley horse I'm talking about. Basically, it's a very sudden, very painful muscle contraction. I've never heard of the punching game you describe involving the term charley horse, and I'm guessing that's a regional thing.

If this is an issue tomorrow, I will definitely get it checked out by a doctor. Again, thanks everyone. All of your answers were a huge help!
posted by katemcd at 11:53 AM on November 9, 2008

2nd-ing marsha56's input that it could be a blood clot. I've had 2 superficial clots (not the more dangerous deep vein thrombosis) and the only symptom was a minor cramp in my left calf each time. It's worth checking out.
posted by altcountryman at 12:51 PM on November 9, 2008

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