Magazine article The Saturday Evening Post

A Curious Young Reader. (Medical Mailbox)

Magazine article The Saturday Evening Post

A Curious Young Reader. (Medical Mailbox)

Article excerpt

Dear Dr. SerVaas:

What is a Charlie Horse, and why is it so painful? On my board game Operation, it says, "Charlie Horse." I would really like to know what it is.

Nicole Luche
Seattle, Washington

Our fitness expert Kay Mikesky explains that a charley horse refers to a muscle cramp or spasm in the lower leg. It is painful because the muscle shortens and can't lengthen on its own.

No one really knows why a leg cramp is called a charley horse. Some people think that the phrase originated around 1886 when a baseball player named Charley Hoss had a leg cramp as he ran around the bases to score a home run.

Kay Mikesky offers these suggestions for treating and avoiding painful leg cramps:

"The best way to get rid of a charley horse is to gently stand up and stretch the calf by placing the cramped leg behind you with the heel on the floor and toes pointing forward. …

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