Symptoms, conditions and causes

What are the causes for charley horses?

A muscle cramp or charley horse is an uncontrolled muscle contraction that is sudden and painful. It often occurs during exercise or at night. Muscle cramps commonly occur in the calf muscle, but they can also occur in the foot and, occasionally, in the thigh.

Cause #1: Magnesium and potassium deficiency (electrolytes)

Magnesium and potassium are the electrolytes (electrically charged minerals) that are very important for correct muscle work and relaxation.

Magnesium is the relaxation mineral. Having enough of it will prevent cramps from occurring as your muscles will be naturally relaxed.

Potassium is responsible for high cellular energy as well as relaxation of the body in general-- along with many other functions. Your body needs 4,700 mg of potassium daily, which is about 7 to 10 cups of vegetables a day.


  • Consume magnesium-rich foods

  • Consume vegetables (7 to 10 cups daily)

  • Consume magnesium and potassium supplements

  • Take apple cider vinegar (1 to 2 teaspoons stirred into about a cup of water) to improve the absorption of calcium and magnesium

Cause #2: Too much calcium

Too much calcium in the diet can cause a lot of calcium residue in your muscle tissues as well as in your joints. Calcium does cause contraction of the muscles, and if you have an excess of it, it can cause cramps. Additionally, sometimes you may consume moderate amounts of calcium and still get cramps; this could be because calcium is not absorbed properly and not mobilised to the bones once it is absorbed. In this case you can take vitamin D and K2.


  • Avoid calcium carbonate

  • Consume vitamin D3 and K2

  • Consume natural sources of calcium (like european cheese, kefir, etc.)

Cause #3: Alkalosis

If you have too alkaline a body pH it can result in muscle cramps. The reason behind it is that when your body pH is higher than normal it can result in inability to utilize the free calcium that is in your body. Calcium, in the right amounts and correctly utilized by your body, is needed for healthy muscle contractions. The solution would be to acidify your body.


  • Take apple cider vinegar (1 to 2 teaspoons stirred into about a cup of water, with your meals)

  • Take betaine hydrochloride

  • You can also drink these acidifiers:

    • kombucha tea

    • pickle juice

  • Take potassium

  • Avoid antacids

  • Do the Healthy Keto® diet

  • Do an intermittent fasting plan

  • Avoid tap water (use a filter if needed)

Other causes:

  • Medication for high blood pressure

  • Medication for high cholesterol

  • Prednisone

Last updated: May 19, 2023 02:23 AM