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Charley Horses After Herniated Disc

ellewilsoneellewilson Posts: 6
Hello everyone,
Last early fall, I suffered a herniated disc at L5-S1. I had horrible acute buttock and radiating leg pain, with semi-disability for about 7 weeks. After that, things improved slowly but steadily. (Without surgery).
I'm about 9 months out now, and have almost no pain. But I do have one very bothersome symptom that persists. I am getting extremely frequent charley horses (muscle spasms) in the calf of the affected leg. In the past, I've had charley horses, once or twice a year. But since a couple months after the herniated disc episode, they are coming more frequently, now about 3-4 times a week. Granted, these spasms are not debilitating. Although excruciating, they last an average of 10-12 seconds, and there is very little lingering soreness from them. It's always in the same place (back of calf, right leg), and always when I'm at rest, usually in the early morning in bed or lying on a couch.
Muscle spasms are often caused by nerve irritation, and since the charley horse is always in the leg that was affected by the herniated disc/sciatica, I'm sure it's connected to that.

But I don't know why the charley horses are getting worse, even though my sciatica has gotten dramatically better. Does anyone else have any experience with something like this or any ideas about how to deal with it? (Note: I'm a runner and I do gentle yoga, and I'm pretty good about stretching out my muscles regularly.)
Thanks... Laura


  • Sorry to hear about those darn charlie horses! I too suffer from L5-S1 issues and have dealt with them as well. They got so bad for a while that I was having them on a daily basis sometimes 5 or 6 each day. I also noticed that they seemed to get worse as my sciatica was getting better! Anyway, one thing that I found to be very helpful to me was valerian. I take it on a daily basis and the charlie horses went away. I didn't start out taking the valerian for that particular issue but realized that it was really helping. It was one of those aha moments when I realized after I was taking it for a couple of weeks that I wasn't having any more charlie horses, and once when I stopped taking it because I ran out, sure enough they came back. Also I make sure to really stay hydrated throughout the day. Lots of water is supposed to help with them as well. I sure hope that you find something that works for you because they are really horrible.
    Take care! Anne
  • Muscle spasms. I usually get them after too much walking. I take a muscle relaxant flexeril to help and heat also. Sometimes stand up with foot flat on floor up or against the wall until it passes. I got my calcium, magnesium, electrolytes blood work checked out as it was time for yearly physical anyways. Hope it eases up for you. Take care. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
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  • Anne, that was really helpful to hear about the valerian. I had heard in general that it was a good anti-inflammatory, but had not heard that it was a remedy for charley horses. Did you take it as a tea drink or in some other form? I would like to try it!
    Thanks again!
  • I've gotten these too - especially at night, but I found out how to stop them when I feel one coming. I straighten my leg and flex my foot up right away for a minute or so, and it doesn't get too bad.
    discectomy in June 2010 - success! No sciatic pain, just some remaining numbness in foot. And I get charlie horses a lot.
  • I get them. Some days are worse than others. I found that if I drink ample water, they seem to be less. They are worse at night and early morning for me.

    I am glad you avoided surgery!
    Did you go to Physical Therapy? it might be worth getting a prescription b/c I also found that I do various 'safe' stretches for my hamstrings as well as my hip flexors and those tend to keep my calve cramps less frequent.

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  • i get charlie horses too - ouch! although I am not a medical doctor i think they are connected to your disk issues. hope you get relief soon
  • I have suffered with these since my sciatica (mis diagnosed as piriformis syndrome) 4 years ago.
    I get them when swimming (now stop and stretch my calf every 10 mins or so) and I used to get them in bed. I learnt that they happen more if my foot is "pointed" rather than at right angles to my leg.
    I had hoped that my surgery last year would fix it but so far no luck!

  • especially early in the morning.
    Reading this thread has made me realise that I am not getting them any more! :D
    At first after my fusion surgery I did get them a few times in my calves and feet, and even got them in my thigh muscle one morning.

    I don't seem to get them anymore. Yeay!!! :))(
  • I too, get Charley Horses in my calf . Sometimes they are severe and jolt me out of bed, other times it feels like one wrong move and it is going to do it again. Then they go away for a few weeks only to surprise me at night again.
    I ruptured a disc at L4-L5 about six years ago. I still have sciatic pain and tingling in my leg and moderate back pain and muscle weakness.
    I will try the valarian to see if it helps. The Doctors say drink more water, take vitamins, exercise, all of which do and have tried, but still the muscle spasms linger. I still feel sure they are related to my back problems but the doctors do not.
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