Is it still called a “charley horse” if the kink is under your rib cage?

I get crazy muscle cramps, sometimes in the oddest of places. Not long after starting on testosterone, I noticed an increase in spontaneous painful muscle cramps in my hamstrings–the classic “charley horse.” After 6 months or so, they waned. More recently however, I’ve been getting muscle cramps and “seize-ups” in my back, chest and hips, and find myself having to stretch a lot more. They feel the same as a charley horse, but they’re not in the usual thigh or calf locations.

According to the great hive mind of Wikipedia, one cause of charley horses is hormonal imbalance. (Others are dehydration, low levels of potassium or calcium in the blood, side effects of medication, or more serious disease.) WebMD also lists “steroids” as a cause of muscle cramps (nighttime leg cramps, more specifically.) Muscle cramps have been linked to testosterone in these similar accounts from trans men as well.

A quick search online pulls up pages loaded with ways to “cure” muscle cramps. Here are a couple of my favorites:

  • All Calm is a restless legs syndrome cure that also treats leg cramps. It has one ingredient: “a pure, refined, concentrated, natural and safe magnesium citrate.” Are we talking about this magnesium citrate, the pre-op bowel prep laxative? Guess not.
  • Here’s a delicious sounding solution: drink 1 cup of pickle juice. The thinking behind this is that the cramping muscle may require sodium not potassium, and gulping down some brine is the next best thing to a main line of triple X saline. Yeah… no.

Presumably, any hormonal imbalance that may be causing my muscle cramps will restore itself over time, as my body continues adjusting to the “new fuel” of testosterone. Regardless, I’ll continue to keep an eye on my blood work reports. To minimize the effects of muscle cramps, I can monitor hydration and the intake and absorption of potassium, calcium, magnesium, and vitamins C and E (which off the top of my head all seem fine.) Herbs such as Valerian and Horse Chestnut might also be helpful if the problem persists.

Did you get more frequent muscle cramps after starting testosterone? How long did they persist for?