Digestive system

Charlie horse in stomach- 17 Causes, 6 Home Remedies, 3 Treatments, Prevention

Charlie horse in stomach, have you ever heard of this term. Now, you might be wondering what is this horse and that too in the stomach. Charlie horse is a term used colloquially to describe any form of muscle spasm. Spasm is the sudden involuntary contraction of a muscle.

Charlie horse or muscle spasm can occur anywhere in our body, including the arms, legs, abdomen, etc. But, if they occur in the stomach or abdomen, they are called Charlie horse in stomach.

In most of the people, having Charlie horse in stomach is not harmful at all, and it can be treated with simple home remedies and Tips. But, in some people, it can indicate a serious underlying disorder especially if the muscle spasms are severe and continuous, and this might need medical attention.

Charlie horse in stomach Causes:

charlie horse in stomach
Image source: philly.com

Charlie horse in stomach can be caused due to spasm of the muscles over the abdomen, or due to spasm of the smooth muscles of the stomach or intestines. Now, let us try to explore the causes of Charlie horse in stomach or stomach muscle spasms or cramps or stomach spasms.

Impaired blood circulation:

All the body parts require an adequate supply of blood to function normally. If there is any impairment or reduction in the supply of blood to the abdominal muscles or to the inner organs like stomach or intestine due to any cause, it can lead to sudden muscle cramps or spasm or Charlie horse in stomach.


Dehydration can occur when there is severe loss of water from the body due to any reason like severe sweating, excess urination, diarrhea, vomiting, having hot weather leading to sweating, etc. Any cause of dehydration leads to electrolyte abnormalities in the body impairing the levels of electrolytes like sodium, potassium, magnesium, etc.

Impairment of levels of electrolytes in the blood can lead to the spams of the muscles anywhere in the body. The muscles over the abdomen can also start developing spasms or Charlie horse in stomach due to electrolyte abnormalities. There are several other symptoms of dehydration apart from stomach spams like:

  • Dark colored urine
  • Extreme thirst
  • Dryness of skin
  • Dryness or mouth
  • Sunken eyes
  • Giddiness
  • A headache
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Straining of muscles:

If you are an exercise freak and keep hitting the gym on a regular basis, you need to be cautious when doing exercises. We need to increase the intensity of the workout gradually, and we should never over exert yourself more than our body permits.

Otherwise, it can lead to Charlie horse in stomach or stomach spasms. It can also have other symptoms like having tenderness or pain when pressed over the abdominal muscles, pain which is aggravated by moving, etc.

Trapped gas in abdomen or stomach:

Sometimes you might have an accumulation of gas in the stomach. This can make your stomach and intestines to develop spasm to let out the gas from the body. This leads to Charlie horse in stomach. There are other symptoms of having gas in the body like:

  • Having a feeling of fullness in the stomach without even eating
  • Bloating sensation
  • Pain in the epigastrium or just below the ribs
  • Releasing burps or belching
  • Passing flatus through anus or flatulence
  • Feeling of discomfort in the abdomen

Gastritis is the inflammation or swelling of your stomach. This condition can be caused by various reasons like having an infection with Helicobacter pylori bacteria, due to an autoimmune reaction of the body due to stress, etc. There are several other symptoms of gastritis apart from Charlie horse in stomach like:

  • Having bloating or fullness in stomach
  • Pain beneath the ribs
  • Pain beneath the breastbone
  • Burping or belching
  • Vomiting when gastritis is severe

It is the inflammation of the intestines, caused by viruses mostly, and sometimes by the bacteria. In this condition, there are stomach spasms or muscle cramps of the stomach which can be called as Charlie horse in stomach. The symptoms of gastroenteritis are:

  • Diarrhea or passing loose stools several times of the day
  • Vomiting or throwing up
  • Abdominal pain
  • Having mucus in stools sometimes
  • Fever if it’s caused by bacteria
Irritable bowel syndrome:

Irritable bowel syndrome is abbreviated as IBS. It is caused by stress and in most people, it is idiopathic without any known cause. There are several symptoms of IBS like:

  • Having stomach spasms or Charlie horse in stomach
  • Constipation (sometimes)
  • Diarrhea (sometimes)
  • Constipation alternating with diarrhea
  • Bloating in the stomach
  • Mucus in stools
  • Passing ribbon or pellet-like stools many times a day
Inflammatory bowel disease:

This disorder is abbreviated as IBD. It includes 2 disorders namely Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis. It is caused by an autoimmune disorder. This condition is also cause caused by various factors like stress, eating unhealthy contaminated food, eating junk food, etc. There is also a component of heredity in it. It causes symptoms like:

  • Charlie horse in stomach or stomach spasms
  • Diarrhea or passing loose stools
  • Blood in the stools
  • Mucus in stools
  • Malabsorption of vitamins and minerals
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
See also  Trapped gas: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
Infectious colitis:

Infectious colitis can be caused by several bacteria like salmonella, and Shigella. It can also be caused by protozoan parasites like the amoeba, and Giardia lamblia. It can lead to severe stomach cramps or spasms, along with other symptoms like diarrhea, mucus in stools, blood in stools, etc.

Mineral deficiency:

Various minerals and electrolytes are essential for normal functioning of the muscles over the abdomen. If there is any deficiency of minerals or electrolytes like Magnesium, Potassium, calcium, it can cause Charlie horse in stomach or stomach cramps.

Drug side effects:

Drugs generally have many side effects. Some groups of drugs like statins (for example Atorvastatin, Rosuvastatin) which are used to lower the cholesterol in the blood cause muscle pains or myalgias throughout the body as a side effect. They can also cause Charlie horse in stomach or abdominal muscle pains. Drugs used to reduce blood pressure like Diuretics can also cause stomach muscle spasms.

Trauma to the stomach:

If there is any trauma or injury to the stomach due to an accident or fall or someone hitting you on stomach, it can lead to developing Charlie horse in stomach.

Spinal cord compression:

Spinal cord compression can also lead to the development of stomach muscle cramps or spams, as the nerves innervating the stomach are affected.


It is the paralysis of the stomach muscles. It can occur due to various reasons including stomach surgeries. It can lead to Charlie horse in stomach mainly after consumption of food.


If you are suffering from constipation, this might lead to your intestines trying hard to push out the fecal matter. This can also lead to developing Charlie horse in stomach.


Ileus is the paralysis of the intestinal muscles of a certain part of the intestine. In this condition, the fecal matter gets stuck in the intestines. This makes the part of the intestine prior to the region where paralysis occurred to work hard to flush out the feces leading to Charlie horse in stomach.

Charlie horse in stomach in pregnancy:

During pregnancy, there are many hormonal and physical changes in the body of the mother or pregnant woman. During this time, she can experience stomach spasms or cramps due to various reasons like having excess gas in the stomach, due to excess stretching of the stomach muscles due to the baby.

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In the last trimester of the pregnancy, false labor or Braxton Hicks contractions can develop making the pregnant woman to have Charlie horse in stomach or stomach spasms.

Charlie horse in stomach Home remedies for relief:

There are several home remedies which can help you with Charlie horse in stomach. They are:

Warm compress:

Applying a warm compress over your abdomen can help in relaxing the muscles, and this eases the spasm of the muscles and reduces the pain.

Electrolytes drink:

As we discussed, Charlie horse in stomach can also be caused by dehydration. If you think that you are developing Charlie horse in stomach due to dehydration or due to electrolyte deficiency, you can have electrolyte drink like ORS (oral rehydration solution) which is commonly used to treat dehydration after diarrhea or vomiting.


You can massage the abdomen with some olive oil or coconut oil or sesame oil. You can also warm up the oil a little for quick relief from Charlie horse in stomach.


Many analgesics are available as over the counter drugs. You can take them to get relief from these muscle spasms. You can also take smooth muscle relaxants like Hyoscine Butyl bromide which provide quick relief from abdominal muscle cramps.

Chamomile tea:

Prepare a cup of warm chamomile tea, and drink it to get relief from the stomach muscle cramps or spasms.

Take rest:

Rest is all that is the need for most of the cases of the stomach spasms. So take adequate rest along with other remedies like massage, warm compress, and electrolyte drinks, etc.

Treatment for Charlie horse in stomach by physicians:

Some cases of Charlie horse in stomach need treatment from physicians for various reasons. Some examples are:

Gastritis and Gastroenteritis:

Antibiotics are prescription-only drugs in most of the countries. If your stomach spasms or Charlie horse in stomach are caused by bacteria leading to Gastritis or Gastroenteritis, you will need a course of antibiotics.

Inflammatory bowel disease:

This is a disease that needs management by a Gastroenterologist, as its management is complicated and needs to be monitored on a continuous basis.

Irritable bowel syndrome:

Most of the patients with this condition have severe abdominal cramps which are not relieved with routine painkillers or analgesics. They will need more powerful antispasmodic drugs like Mebeverine, etc to control the pain, and these are prescribed by the physicians.

Prevention of Charlie horse in stomach:

  • Stretch adequately and warm up before exercise
  • Don’t overexert yourself while exercising
  • Avoid dehydration by drinking 8 to 10 glasses of water every day
  • Drink more water and ORS drinks when having diarrhea or vomiting
  • Be stress-free by practicing relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation
  • Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables

You have seen the causes, home remedies, treatment options, and prevention of Charlie horse in stomach or stomach spasms. We will meet on another interesting topic.

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