What are Muscle Spasms?
Muscle Spasms are sudden, involuntary (uncontrolled) contractions of one or more muscles in the body. It may develop in the arm or hands of a carpenter or along the calf muscles of a marathon runner. Other muscle spasms may involve the muscles of the spine and the limbs, causing posture and locomotion problems.
What are the Causes of Muscle Spasms?
Here are some of the most common causes of muscle spasms:
- Muscle injury or overuse – when a muscle is tired, injured, strained, or overused, a spasm may occur secondary to overstretching or if the affected muscle has been held for the same position or from repetitive movements for extended periods (shovelling snow, raking grass). This occurs because the muscle runs out of nutrients or energy and become hyperexcitable, resulting in an involuntary, forceful contraction. It may also occur to athletes who do not warm-up prior to vigorous training.
- Dehydration – muscle spasms may occur when the nutrients of the muscles become depleted from prolonged contractions. For instance, if a marathon runner has not replaced the amount of fluid he/she consumes during training, the muscles that are continuously experiencing increased metabolic demand runs out of nutrients for it to function. The loss of too much fluid disrupts the balance of the fluids and electrolytes in the body causing involuntary contraction of the affected muscles.
- Underlying medical condition – chronic, recurrent, and widespread muscle spasms may indicate an underlying medical condition due to problems with the body’s hormones, vascular structure, nutrition, fluid/electrolyte imbalance or toxic-metabolic functions. Example, in a peripheral arterial disease, muscle spasms may occur due to the lack of oxygen being supplied by the blood to the affected muscles.
- Irritation or injury in the nerves – muscle spasms, accompanied by other signs and symptoms may suggest a neurological affectation. For instance, immobility, numbness, or tingling sensation in the lower extremities, accompanied by muscle spasms can result from injury to the nerves or spinal cord. It may be due to a narrowing of the spinal canal that houses the nerves or disc herniation (bulging) which compresses the nerves.
What are the Treatment Options for Muscle Spasms?
The effects of muscle spasms vary widely, which means that treatment also needs to be adjusted depending on an individual’s condition, needs, and the etiology (cause) of the muscle spasm.
In order to utilize the correct intervention and the best treatment method, a thorough assessment is necessary to identify possible provoking factors, nature of symptoms, and most importantly – the impact that muscle spasms cause.
- Medications – these include pain relievers and muscle relaxants to alleviate pain
- Anti-inflammatories and Botox injections – If the cause of muscle spasm is irritation on the nerve due to inflammation surrounding the nerves, the doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatories to help reduce pain by decreasing the swelling, consequently preventing compression and irritation of the nerve. Botox may be injected into the affected muscle to relieve a muscle spasm.
- Physiotherapy and certain exercises – physical therapy and exercise can be used to help improve muscle strength and manage muscle stiffness.
- Relaxation and breathing techniques – deep breathing and relaxation techniques help promote adequate oxygenation in the muscles.
- Surgery – if muscle spasms are caused by spinal disc herniation/bulging or any spinal abnormalities causing nerve compression, surgical procedures may be suggested.
Treatment for muscle spasms may vary from patient to patient. Some people may benefit from physiotherapy and exercise. Others try complementary therapies such as acupuncture, yoga, chiropractic, and massage. However, before starting with any complementary therapy, we recommend having a consultation first with a medical doctor because some complementary therapy might interact with medications or may do more harm.
Know More About Muscle Spasms
To get an initial assessment and to know more about your diagnosis, treatment options, and other information about muscle spasms visit us here at Pegasus Pain Management or book an appointment by calling (214) 702-5855.
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