So there you are, lying there in bed, dreaming your fitful dreams or tossing and turning through the nightmares when all of sudden you feel the telltale signs of pain beginning to form in your lower calf. It probably starts out as just a little twinge and is hardly noticeable at first so you shift into a more comfortable position and maybe it subsides for a while and you drift back off to sleep.
But soon afterwards, you feel your muscles beginning to get tight as a drum and the pain begins shooting up your leg. Your eyes snap open and you sit up in bed like somebody just shoved a lightning bolt straight up your ass and you start grabbing for the source of the pain in the hopes that by massaging it, it will go away and you can return to your rest. You might cry out things like “SON OF A BITCH”! or you might try to implore Jesus Christ or another savior of your choosing to come to rescue you and to ease the pain which is now spreading from your calf and intensifying with each passing second. If you’re lucky enough to have an understanding partner with you, they might help massage the pain away or if they aren’t the understanding type, they might tell you to shut the hell up so they can get some sleep. Meanwhile, you writhe in agony with your eyes tightly clenched and your teeth gritted as if trying to ward off death itself.
If that scenario plays itself out, you now realize to yourself that there just might be some truth to some things that go bump in the night and are that are just lying in wait like a monster underneath your bed or hidden away in the closet just waiting for the right moment to strike. But unlike those imaginary fiends, this monster is real and it goes by the innocent name of a “Charley horse".
Yes my friends, while nobody can seem to pinpoint exactly what causes these pains to come, they do know that they most often strike in dead of night when all is seemingly quiet on the outside of one’s body but the insides are still ticking away like a time bomb just waiting to explode. Most often, they strike in the lower legs but it’s not uncommon for them to appear in the area of the hamstring muscle, in the buttocks or even in the arm. Some likely suspects for the origin of the pain include:
Heavy unprepared exercise
Usually the pain is short lived but is quite intense and will soon go away on its own, Like I mentioned earlier, a quick massage will usually do it as will stretching the aching muscle. If it’s really bad, you might want to try and hot shower or bath to warm and relax the muscle.
Oh yeah, for those of us who consider themselves linguists or are into etymology there are two schools of thought when it comes to the term "Charley horse”. The first one is of American origin and claims that the term originated in Chicago way back in the 1890’s. It seems that the local baseball team, the Chicago White Sox had a groundskeeper that went by the name Charley. Charley owned a horse that would pull rollers across the field in order to try and keep it level and to prevent bad hop grounders from skipping up and injuring the players. Well, one day, poor old Charley’s horse came up lame and the term stuck and was used when a ballplayer went down with a leg injury.
The second one is attributed to the constables of jolly ol’ England. Apparently they were nicknamed “Charley”s and because they were on their feel an awful lot walking the beats and chasing down the less desirables, they were often prone to getting leg cramps. Hence, the cramps became known as “riding Charley’s horse” and term endured even when it came stateside.