Muscle Spasms treatment and causes

What are Muscle spasms ?

Muscle spasms are sharp, rapid contractions of a muscle within the body. These contractions are involuntary, and often extremely painful. However, they are normally harmless, not causing any other problems within the body. The majority will be very short lived, and will stop within a few minutes.
Muscle spasms can have a wide range of different causes.

Back pain muscle spasm

Back pain muscle spasm © Kennethman

There are three types of muscle in the body, and it is possible for spasms to occur in any of them. Cardiac muscle is found only in the heart, and is what controls the flow of blood around the body. Skeletal muscle is what most people will think of when the word “muscle” is mentioned, and these are the ones that are under voluntary control. Smooth muscle is found in the lining of the airways, the digestive tract and the blood vessels.

 

How Muscle spasms occur ?

The majority of muscle spasms occur in the skeletal muscles, though a variety of different causes can lead to this happening.

muscle spasms in leg calf

muscle spasms in leg calf © Martinmark

• If a muscle has been held in the same position for an extended period of time, then this can lead to fatigue, which is one of the most common causes of muscle spasm. This happens because the muscle cells have run out of energy and are not being supplied with enough nutrients. The result of this will be a forceful contraction which can involve the entire muscle or just part of it, and sometimes the surrounding tissues.

• Another very common cause of muscle spasm is overuse. When you have been carrying out repetitive actions for a long period of time, then the muscle will become tired, due to the unaccustomed amount of exercise. This can occur frequently in athletes who are training intensively, particularly if the surrounding environment is hot. People who have been carrying out tasks such as mowing the grass or shoveling snow, which take a reasonably long time, then the muscles you are using may start to spasm because they are not used to the work.

• If you have recently begun an exercise program, and are focusing intensively on certain parts of the body, this can lead to the onset of muscle spasms.

Intensive exercise muscle spasms

Intensive exercise muscle spasms
© Lunamarina

People often report this as a side effect of doing a large number of sit ups or other abdominal exercises, when they previously did not do any. If you stick to the exercise program, then your muscles will become accustomed to it, and they should then be able to cope more effectively.

 

• Another major cause of muscle spasm is dehydration. If your fluid intake is not high enough, then the muscles cannot function properly, and the tissue will become irritated.

Dehydration could cause muscle spasms

Dehydration could cause muscle spasms © Fotosmurf02

You also need to ensure that you have enough mineral ions in your diet. It is the interaction between all of these substances that controls the contraction of the muscles, and ensures that they are functioning correctly.
There are many other causes of muscle spasms – any muscle disorder is likely to have this as a side effect. Spasms are different from twitches, so it is important to bear this in mind.

Are Muscle spasms Normal?

Muscle spasms are generally not considered to be dangerous in any way, although the resulting pain will often cause sufferers to seek medical advice. Sometimes, pain relief is all that they are looking for, but others will be concerned that muscle spasms are an indicator of an underlying condition that may not have been diagnosed as yet. So, do muscle spasms possibly indicate an undiagnosed medical condition, and if so, what could this be?
Before you read on, however, you should be aware that the vast majority of muscle spasms are perfectly harmless, and do not mean that you have any severe medical conditions. Only in rare cases are they a symptom of something else, so if you have any concerns at all, you should book an appointment with your doctor, so that your spasms can be assessed by a professional.

• Muscle spasms may occur if you are suffering from a condition known as atherosclerosis. This is a form of heart disease that leads to a reduction in the volume of blood that is able to flow around your body. A reduction in the blood means that oxygen and other nutrients cannot easily reach the tissues where they are required, including your muscles. This can lead to the onset of fatigue, which is one major cause of muscle spasm. Muscle cramps are also relatively common in people with this form of heart disease, where the arteries are becoming narrower, or even blocked.

• A low red blood cell count can also prevent sufficient oxygen from reaching the muscles. Low levels of red blood cells will mean that you have probably developed anemia, which can be diagnosed easily, with a simple blood test. Anemia is usually the result of not including enough iron in your diet, so you may want to think about increasing your intake of foods such as red meat or fortified cereal. Both of these are rich in iron and will encourage your body to produce more red blood cells. Alternatively, your doctor may prescribe iron tablets for you.

• If you have diabetes, then you may notice that one of your symptoms is muscle spasm. This can be the case regardless of whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Making sure you stay hydrated can help, along with eating a balanced, nutritious diet, because this will maintain the levels of water and minerals that are needed for muscle contraction.

 

• Some nervous system disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, can also cause muscle spasms. Multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury affect the transmission of nerve impulses to the muscle, which can lead to muscle contractions occurring at unexpected times. If you are experiencing this, then you would be advised to speak to your doctor, who may be able to prescribe muscle relaxants in order to reduce your symptoms.
There are also examples of muscle spasms occurring in a condition known as dystonia, which involves several different movement disorders. Sometimes, these will occur as a result of a stroke, but sometimes there is no apparent cause.

Muscle spasms treatment

There are several ways to prevent the onset of muscle spasms, and in order to reduce the symptoms that you are experiencing, the majority of the advice will be the same. However, if you currently have muscle spasms on a regular basis, you will need to think carefully about what might be causing them. Muscle spasms can have many different potential causes, but the most common are overuse of the muscles concerned, and dehydration.

• Treating muscle spasms is the first stage of attaining freedom from the pain that they cause. You may find that taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, will be the most effective type of painkiller. Ibuprofen is available to buy over the counter, and will help to reduce both pain and swelling. If this has not been effective after a few days, then you should visit your doctor. He or she may be able to prescribe stronger anti-inflammatory medications or muscle relaxants.

• While you are taking these medications, it is also important that you rest the affected muscle as much as possible. If it is one that you can support in a splint or a sling, this will be very helpful and will encourage healing to take place more quickly. Resting the muscle will allow any damage that has occurred to heal.

• Prevention is always better than cure, so once you have managed to stop any muscle spasms that have been occurring, you need to start taking steps to prevent any more. Muscle spasms are not dangerous, but they can be exceedingly painful, so it is worth knowing how best to prevent them from occurring in the future.

• Ensure that you do not become dehydrated. In order for your muscles to work effectively, there is a delicate balance of water and mineral ions that interact to produce a muscle contraction. If this balance is upset, then the muscle fibers will not be able to function in the correct, controlled manner that is needed. This will result in muscle spasms, which will be painful. Avoid these by drinking plenty of water, especially if you are undertaking any form of exercise.

Prevent dehydration to avoid muscle spasms

Prevent dehydration to avoid muscle spasms © Ben44

It is also essential for you to replenish any mineral ions, also known as electrolytes, that you have lost as well. This means that water may not be the ideal choice for you to replace lost fluids, and you may find that a sports drink, which is isotonic, will be more effective. Isotonic drinks contain the same concentration of ions that should be found in your blood.

• If you have been losing water through sweat, then it is not just the fluids that you will be losing. The electrolytes (otherwise known as mineral ions) that are dissolved in the water will also be lost from the body. These are also necessary for the muscles to function correctly. Therefore, it is important to replace these along with the water.

• Stretch properly before and after you exercise. This will mean that the muscle fibers will not shorten and cause you pain after your activity. Shortened muscles are one of the main causes of muscle spasm. Prevention of any future spasms can be carried out relatively easily by stretching thoroughly each time you exercise. The warm up and cool down stages of exercise, which is when this should be done, are often missed out as people do not see the purpose of them.

• If you are going to exercise, then you should make sure your muscles are ready for this first. Warm ups are a very important part of any exercise program, although they are often missed out in order to reduce the time spent exercising. The best way to prevent exercise-related muscle spasms is to warm up and then to stretch, both before and after completing the exercise.

warming up before exercise for preventing muscle spasms

warming up before exercise for preventing muscle spasms ©
Konstantynov

 

Strenuous activity causes muscle fibers to shorten, which will lead to tension and spasms if nothing is done. Stretching restores the muscle fibers to their original positions.
• While you may not consider some household or garden chores to be a form of exercise, several of them can be quite strenuous and lead to your muscles having to work very hard. Stretching can be used to reduce the chances of spasm during these activities too, along with treating cases of spasm by restoring the muscle to its original length.

• If the spasms are a result of an injury, then you need to allow time for this to heal before you start to use the muscle again. Rest it as much as you can, ideally in a sling or splint, if this is possible. You may also need to take some pain medications for a few days, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen will probably be the best option for this, as they will help to prevent swelling. If you need to take painkillers for several days, you should seek advice from your doctor, who will be able to recommend alternative treatments.

Muscle Spasms treatment using herbal remedies

If you have ever suffered from muscle spasms, then you will already know just how painful these involuntary, uncontrolled muscle contractions can be. This has led many people to seek out treatments, for this condition is very painful, even though it is not considered to be dangerous in any way. There are a number of herbal remedies that may help with your symptoms and reduce the pain, so it could be worth trying these before you book an appointment with your doctor.

rosemary_herb for muscle spasms

rosemary_herb for muscle spasms

 

• Rosemary. This is a herb that you may already have in your kitchen, and it is very effective as treatment of muscle spasms, along with joint pain.

• Chamomile tea has long been known as a relaxant, and there is a very good reason for this – it works.

 

Natural substances found in chamomile tea help to relax the body and ease the tension that you are feeling, which will also be very effective at relieving muscle spasm. It is also extremely useful for helping with stress, which can increase the severity of your muscle spasms.
Cramp-bark  is one of the most effective herbal remedies for muscle spasms. It can be used both as a treatment if you are currently experiencing muscle spasms, or as a preventative measure if you think that they are likely to occur.

Celery seed, another one that you may already have in your kitchen cupboard, can be used to reduce the symptoms of muscle spasms that you have been experiencing. It also offers other benefits such as a reduction in blood pressure and any inflammation that may be present in your body.

You may be experiencing muscle spasms if the levels of vitamins and minerals in your body are too low. If you don’t want to take supplements to bring these back up to the correct levels, then think about introducing more variety into your diet. You may need to increase your intake of several different substances, such as potassium, calcium and magnesium.

The most effective way to do this is through a varied diet that contains plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Eating bananas, apricots, potatoes and perhaps seaweed will all help to restore the balance that is necessary for your muscles to be able to contract normally. Any foods that are rich in B vitamins will also be very beneficial.

Even if you are taking these herbal remedies and eating a varied, healthy diet, if you are not drinking enough water, then the delicate balance needed in your muscles will still not be correct. You must stay hydrated in order to prevent muscle spasms from occurring, and this, ideally, means drinking at least two liters of water a day. However, this is the total recommended fluid intake, and does not all need to be purely water – it is perfectly fine to include fruit juices, flavored water and so on. However, in order to prevent dehydration, you should stay away from alcoholic drinks, and keep your intake of caffeinated drinks such as tea and coffee as low as possible.

What is a charley Horse ?

Charley horse is nothing but muscle cramps. Cramps occurring mostly in leg calf are referred to as Charley horse. These cramps are a result of severe unbearable contractions of muscles. During these spasms, the muscle may not soothe for multiple seconds or even more causing considerable discomfort to the patient.

 

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