Where Did the Expression Charley Horse Come From?
If you have ever exercised too much and developed a painful muscle strain in a leg or arm, then you are acquainted with the “charley horse.” This is a term often used for a strain or soreness in your muscles.
Muscle spasms can occur in any muscle in the body, but often happen in the leg. When a muscle is in spasm, it contracts without your control and does not relax.
The expression originated in England, where “Charley” was a common name for old horses kept for family use. The name became popular in the United States as a slang word for lame racehorses, and for the muscle strains that temporarily disable athletes.
Muscle strain results when your muscles work too hard at exercises they are not used to. Things that might bring on a muscle spasm include: Exercising when you have not had enough fluids (you’re dehydrated) and have low level of minerals such as potassium or calcium.
Some spasms occur because the nerve that connects to a muscle is irritated. One example is when a herniated disk irritates the spinal nerves and causes pain and spasm in the back muscles. Spasms in the calf often occur while kicking during swimming or running.
Upper leg spasms are more common with running or jumping activities. They can also happen at night when you are in bed.