Understanding the Causes of Muscle Spasm, and Treatment
A Muscle Spasm or a Cramp is a sudden and involuntary contraction of one or more muscles in your body.
When you are in an awkward position at night or stop in your tracks when a sudden Charly horse occurs, muscle cramps can cause serious pain.
Though they are often harmless, muscle spasms can make it impossible to use the affected muscle temporarily.
Let’s learn more about it in detail.
Muscle Spasm: Causes and Symptoms
Long periods of exercise, physical labor, hot weather, and dehydration are some factors that can potentially lead to muscle spasms. Moreover, some medications and medical conditions may also cause cramps.
In most cases, you can treat muscle spasms at home, however, for some, you need to visit your doctor for treatment.
Let’s learn more about it in detail.
Understanding Muscle Spasms
When your muscles contract, they become stiff or spasm involuntarily which is also called Spasticity.
Moreover, spasticity can make it difficult to walk, move, and even talk. It can be uncomfortable and painful at times.
Spasticity occurs when the nerve impulses that control your muscle improvement are interrupted or damaged.
It is important to note that a number of conditions can cause this. These are:
- spinal cord injury
- brain injury
- certain diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS, multiple sclerosis, MS
However, these can also have certain benefits for people with very weak legs.
The rigidity that occurs with spasticity can help them to stand and walk. For them, the goal of the treatment is to relieve pain while maintaining the rigidity they need to functions.
Furthermore, prolonged spasticity can lead to frozen joints, pressure sores, and an inability to function normally.
Therefore, it is important to make an appointment with your doctor to have a check so that make sure they understand the causes.
Causes of Muscle Spasms
One of the important things to note is that muscle spasms are very common and can occur at any part of your body.
Moreover, they often affect your feet, hands, arms, thighs, abdomen, and intercostal muscles that are around your rib cage.
Certain factors like muscle pain, fatigue, and overuse can cause muscle spasms.
Some of the other causes are stress, anxiety, which can lead to muscle twitches in the face.
Trapped nerves can also result in spasms in your back.
Furthermore, athletes who do not arm up before exercising or exercise in hot conditions may also experience muscle spasms.
Charly horse, for instance, is the term many use to describe spam in the calf muscles of the runners.
Drinking insufficient water before exercising can also cause spasms.
It is important to note that if you have certain health conditions like nerve disorders or thyroid-related issues, then you also experience a higher-than-average frequency of muscle spasms.
This is something you do not need to worry about, however, in some cases, they can be a sign of an underlying condition.
Neurological health conditions that affect your brain are also responsible for making your muscles move.
Muscle Spasm Symptoms
Not all muscle spasms are painful, however, some can cause pain.
It may feel as though the muscle is jumping or moving on its own, with a feeling that typically lasts for a few seconds only.
In some cases, however, you might even be able to see the muscle twitching.
Muscle spasms can even feel as though the whole muscle is cramping up and you can unable to move it.
Moreover, this effect commonly occurs in the legs and it can be very painful
While cramping sensation tends to pass within a few minutes or so, the muscle may continue to hurt for some time afterward.
However, in case, a muscle spasm is a part of a neurological health condition, then you may also experience other symptoms.
These are a pain in the back, neck, or head, weakness in the muscles, poor coordination, skin numbness, a pins-and-needles sensation, a tremor, paralysis, slow movements, double vision, and sleep problems.
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Muscle Spasm: Risk-Factors and Treatment
Anyone can experience muscle spasms, however, certain things can increase your risk factors.
Stretching before exercising can help reduce your chances of spasms, while in the case of medical conditions, you will need medications and treatment after proper diagnosis.
Keep on reading.
Certain factors that may increase your risk of muscle cramps are:
Age Older people tend to lose muscle mass, so the remaining muscles can often get overstressed more easily, thus leading to cramps.
Dehydration Athletes who become fatigued and dehydrated while participating in warm-weather sports can frequently develop muscle spasms.
Pregnancy It is important to note that muscle spasms are common during pregnancy.
Medical Conditions Certain medical conditions can put you at a higher risk for muscle spasms.
These can be diabetes, nerve, liver, or thyroid disorders.
In most cases, muscle spasms resolve on their own. It may take a few seconds or even several minutes for them to stop.
However, they do not need treatment in most cases.
Drinking plenty of water can help ease dehydration-related muscle cramps.
If you are having painful cramps, then you can try some methods to ease the symptoms.
According to the American Osteopathic Association, you can try the following:
- stop any activity that leads to muscle cramps, like running
- massaging the cramping muscle gently
- stretch the cramping muscle gently
- use a heating pad to relax tight muscles
- apply an ice pack to soothe sore muscles
However, if the pain is in the calf muscles, you can try putting the weight on the affected leg and bending the knee slightly.
With this, you can stretch the muscle and relieve the cramp.
But if the crap is affecting the quadriceps, the muscles present at the front of your thigh, you can try holding the foot of the affected leg behind and gently pulling it up towards the buttock, keeping your knees together.
In cases, where neurological conditions cause muscle spasms, your doctor may recommend antispasmodic medicine.
When should you Seek Medical Advice?
Treatment often depends on the frequency and level of spasms, as well as the underlying condition causing it.
Contact your doctor if:
You can experience muscle spasms for the first time and do not know the cause.
Muscle spams are getting more severe or are happening more frequently, are changing considerably, have a frozen joint, and have pressure sores or red skin.
Moreover, the level of discomfort or pain is increasing, and if you find it difficult to perform everyday tasks, then you should see your doctor.
Your doctor may suggest physical therapy or exercises you can do at home.
However, in some cases, they may recommend a cast or splint to prevent your muscles from becoming too tight.
In certain cases, when the muscle spasms are due to underlying medical conditions like multiple sclerosis, thyroid disease, or cirrhosis of the liver, talk to your doctor.
Your doctor may suggest problems with nutrition, circulation, metabolism, nerves, and hormones.
Moreover, if you regularly exercise and have painful or severe muscle spasms, talk to your doctor as well.
Medications, Prevention, and More
In most cases, muscle spasms last a few seconds to a few minutes.
However, in case they are occurring due to certain medical conditions, then you may needs medications to treat them.
Moreover, with the help of certain preventive measures, you can prevent their frequency.
Let’s discuss these all in the section below.
Medications for Muscle Spasm
With the help of certain medications, your doctor can help treat muscle spasms. These are:
- botulinum toxin: an injection that your doctor will inject into cramped muscles
- baclofen: muscle relaxant
- phenol: nerve blocker
- tizanidine: calms spasms and relaxes tight muscles
- diazepam: sedative
However, certain drugs can cause uncomfortable side effects. These include fatigue, confusion, and nausea.
Thus, if you experience side effects, do not stop taking your medications on your own. Seek medical advice as soon as possible.
In some cases, your doctor may recommend surgery for tendon release or to sever the nerve-muscle pathway when medications and physical therapy are not working.
Moreover, you will remain under the care of your doctor and receive regular monitoring for muscle spasms.
The following steps can help avoid muscle spasms. Make sure to follow them.
Avoid Dehydration Make sure to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.
The amount of water, however, depends on what you eat, your gender, your level of activity, weather, health, your age, and medications.
Moreover, fluids help your muscle to contract and relax and keep the muscle cells hydrated and less irritable.
During the activity, replenish fluids at regular intervals and continue drinking water or other fluids when you are done.
Stretch your Muscles Stretching before and after you use the muscle after an extended period of time.
If you tend to have leg cramps at night, stretch before bedtime.
Light exercise like riding a stationary bicycle for a few minutes before bedtime, can also help prevent cramps while you are sleeping.
Your doctor or physical therapist will most likely recommend a number of at-home treatments to help ease some of the symptoms of muscle spasms.
- stretching muscles for spasms and overall health, you may need someone to help with your exercises.
- avoid extremely hot or cold temperatures
- wear loose-fitting clothes and avoid restrictive garnets or braces
- get plenty of sleep
- change your position often, at every two hours.
This helps to avoid developing pressure sores if you use a wheelchair or stay in bed for longer periods of time.
Wrapping it Up
Muscles spasms are very common and you do not need to worry about them in most cases. Over-exercising, dehydration, and stress are the most common causes of it. The spasms occur when the muscle moves suddenly involuntarily. Moreover, they may feel like twitch, or a painful cramp, and they can occur in the muscles in any part of your body.
Muscles spasms can last for a few seconds to several minutes, however, they tend to go away without medical intervention. Gently stretching or massaging the affected area or using a heat or ice pack can help. However, in some cases, they can be a sign of underlying medical conditions. Anyone suffering from frequent or severe muscle spasms should speak to their doctor or seek medical advice.