|Classification and external resources|
Charley horse is a popular colloquial term in Canada and the United States for painful involuntary spasms or cramps in the leg muscles, typically lasting anywhere from a few seconds to about a day. It is less likely to refer to a bruise on an arm or leg and a bruising of the quadriceps muscle of the anterior or lateral thigh, or contusion of the femur, that commonly results in a haematoma and sometimes several weeks of pain and disability. In this latter sense, such an injury is known as dead leg. In Australia it is also known as a corked thigh or corky. It often occurs in contact sports, such as football when an athlete suffers a knee (blunt trauma) to the lateral quadriceps causing a haematoma or temporary paresis and antalgic gait as a result of pain. Another term, jolly horse, is used to describe simple painful muscle cramps in the leg or foot, especially those that follow strenuous exercise.
The term can also be used to refer to cramps in the foot muscles. These muscle cramps can have many possible causes directly resulting from high or low pH or substrate concentrations in the blood, including hormonal imbalances, low levels of magnesium, potassium or calcium, dehydration, side effects of medication, or, more seriously, diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and neuropathy. They are also a common complaint during pregnancy.
Relief is usually given by either massaging or stretching the foot, ankle or knee in the opposite direction of the spasm.
Colloquial advice suggests that dietary deficiency of potassium, found richly in bananas and many vegetables, is a common cause of these spasms.
In other languages
Since this condition is frequent, and official medical term muscle cramps is used to describe cramps in general this term is often idiomatic, many languages has its own idiom to describe this condition, often beyond official medical terminology:
- Arabic: شد عضلي
- France: crampe (cramp) or if the muscle is torn – claquage.
- Dutch: ijsbeentje ("ice leg").
- Spain, Colombia, Dominican Republic (Spanish): calambre.
- Portugal: paralítica (roughly "paralyzer") and cãimbra (cramp).
- Brazil: tostão, paulistinha or cãimbra (cramp).
- German: Muskelkrampf ("muscle cramp")
- southern Italy: morso del ciuco ("donkey bite").
- northwestern Italy: vecchia ("old woman") or dura ("hard one" or "tough one").
- central Italy: water buffalo.
- Norway: lårhøne ("thigh hen"), though in Norwegian only as a result of damage as in sports.
- Finland: puujalka ("wooden leg").
- Denmark: trælår ("wooden thigh"), both referring to how the thigh feels hard, almost like wood.
- Estonia: puukas ("a woody").
- Swedish: lårkaka ("a thigh cake"), likely referring to the diffuse area of bruising, and loss of muscle tone.
- Japan: komuragaeri (こむら返り?) ("calf cramp").
- Israel: regel etz ("wooden leg").
- Guam and the Mariana Islands: chaca ("rat") in the Chamorro language.
- Hindi: bainta.
- Telugu: timmiri.
- Romania: cârcel.
- Ukrainian: звело (e.g. "звело ногу", "звело руку") as translated as overstretched leg or overstretched hand
- Turkish: "kramp girmek" (to cramp) or "et kesmek" ("turn into meat")
- What is a dead leg?, bbc.co.uk.
- corked thigh, mydr.com.au
- Miller TM, Layzer RB (2005). "Muscle cramps". Muscle Nerve. 32 (4): 431–42. doi:10.1002/mus.20341. PMID 15902691.
- Young GL, Jewell D (2002). Henderson S, ed. "Interventions for leg cramps in pregnancy". Cochrane database of systematic reviews (Online) (1): CD000121. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD000121. PMID 11869565.
- Shulman, D. Whence "Charley Horse"?. American Speech, Vol. 24, No. 2 (Apr., 1949), pp. 100–104.
- Tonbridge, St. V. "Charley Horse" Again. American Speech, Vol. 25, No. 1. (Feb., 1950), p. 70.
- Woolf, H B. Mencken as Etymologist: Charley Horse and Lobster Trick. American Speech, Vol. 48, No. 3/4. (Autumn – Winter, 1973), pp. 229–238.