NOV 16, 2017 3:28 PM PST

Why it Hurts When You Pull a Muscle

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

If you've ever had a Charley horse, you know how painful these can be - especially if these occur late at night while you're sleeping. A Charley horse is a colloquial name for a muscle spasm or contraction. And although these can happen anywhere in the body, most people get them in the legs. The spasm is often intense - the pulling of the muscle in the calves can sometimes be visible on the skin surface! Fortunately, the episodes only last for several seconds.

But what causes Charley horses? Muscle spasm can be brought on by a number of things, including lack of adequate blood flow, muscle stress from exercise, and an imbalance of metabolites like sodium, potassium, calcium. So, it's possible that an awkward position during sleep could trigger the muscle to contract severely.

Usually, these episodes resolve on their own, although people may experience soreness afterwards. When exercise is the culprit, massaging and adequate stretching seems to be helpful. Eating and drinking enough electrolytes can also help people to avoid these painful cramps.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
JUN 25, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Did Scientists Just Discover the Smallest Black Hole Known to Man?
JUN 25, 2020
Did Scientists Just Discover the Smallest Black Hole Known to Man?
An array of antennas in the US and Italy, known as the International LIGO-Virgo Collaboration, received some unusual rea ...
JUL 16, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Turbulence: A Treat for Both Eyes and Minds
JUL 16, 2020
Turbulence: A Treat for Both Eyes and Minds
What do the air inside your lung, the tap water in pipes, the Great Red Spot of Jupiter, and the hurricane over the Atla ...
JUL 19, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
Study Finds Turmeric has Antiviral Effects
JUL 19, 2020
Study Finds Turmeric has Antiviral Effects
Researchers from the Wuhan University of Engineering in China have found that curcumin, a natural compound found in turm ...
AUG 10, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
Researchers Debunk Cannabis Growing Myths
AUG 10, 2020
Researchers Debunk Cannabis Growing Myths
Researchers at Utah State University grew cannabis to study until the Controlled Substances Act came into force in 1970. ...
AUG 27, 2020
Plants & Animals
Polar Bear Populations Could Collapse by 2100
AUG 27, 2020
Polar Bear Populations Could Collapse by 2100
A new study reports that polar bear populations could collapse in the next 80 years if greenhouse gas emissions remain a ...
SEP 10, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Reprogramming Virus to Build Better Li-ion Batteries
SEP 10, 2020
Reprogramming Virus to Build Better Li-ion Batteries
There's no doubt that the word "virus" is currently on everyone's mind. However, there's a lot mor ...
Loading Comments...