Muscle Spasms

Your muscles are made of fiber controlled by your nerves, and damage to these nerves can cause the fibers to twitch and your muscles spasm. Spasms can be normal, but they can also indicate a problem with the nervous system. Here’s what you need to know.

8 minute read

Last Updated July 2, 2020

What Is A Muscle Spasm - Joint - 1MD

Muscle spasms, also known as muscle fasciculation, involve small contractions in your muscles. Each muscle is made of fiber bundles that are controlled by your nerves, and stimulation or damage to these nerves can cause the fibers to twitch and your muscles to contract or spasm.

Most spasms go unnoticed and are not serious, but in some cases, they may indicate a problem with your nervous system and should be given more attention.

What Causes Muscle Spasms?

The causes of muscle spasms can be minor or more severe. Those that are minor usually resolve within a few days and include:

♦ Certain nutrient deficiencies in vitamins D or B, magnesium, potassium, and calcium can cause spasms in your calves, eyelids, and hands.
♦ Dehydration can cause spasms in your larger muscles such as your arms, legs, and torso.
♦ Physical activity can cause spasms, as lactic acid accumulates in the muscles during exercise.
♦ Anxiety and stress can cause spasms, which are commonly referred to as “nervous ticks.”
♦ Certain drugs such as corticosteroids and estrogen pills can trigger muscle spasms as a side effect. You should always consult your doctor if you think your medications are causing the spasms.
♦ Poor circulation can cause your muscles to spasm, as they are not getting enough oxygen to function properly.
♦ Unfamiliar exercises cause spasms when your muscles are worked out in new ways or when exercises are repeated too often and too quickly.
♦ Atherosclerosis is a condition that causes narrowing of the arteries. The inadequate blood supply to a muscle group can cause an involuntary spasm or cramp.

Some muscle spasms can be caused by serious conditions. These disorders are usually related to the nervous system, and they may involve damage to nerves that are connected to your muscles.

Some of the rare but serious conditions that cause muscle spasms include:

♦ Muscular dystrophies are a group of inherited diseases that damage muscles over time. Spasms are common in the face, neck, hips, and shoulders.

♦ Spinal muscular atrophy is a condition that damages motor nerve cells in your spinal cord. These control muscle movement and can cause spasms throughout your body, including your back and tongue.

♦ Lou Gehrig’s disease is a condition that causes nerve cells to die. The spasms can occur anywhere in the body but typically appear in the arms and legs first.

♦ Issac’s syndrome impacts the nerves that stimulate muscle fibers, and spasms are most common in the arms and legs.

♦ Myopathy is a disease of the muscle fibers, which causes them to not function properly. One of the symptoms is frequent muscle spasms.

Diagnosing Muscle Spasms

Your doctor will need to conduct a physical examination as well as go over all the symptoms you have been experiencing. You need to make sure you tell them very specific information such as:

♦ How long you have had the spasms
♦ Where the spasms occur
♦ How long the spasms last
♦ How often the spasms occur
♦ Your work and exercise history
♦ Past medical history and injuries
♦ Possible environmental changes such as excessive sun exposure or possible dehydration

After a physical examination and an assessment of your symptoms, your doctor may follow up with additional tests. Blood work can indicate thyroid issues, electrolyte imbalance, or anemia, which can cause spasms. They may also conduct MRI or CT scans to closely analyze the muscles affected as well as the nerves that control them.

How to Get Rid of Muscle Spasms

There are several circumstances where muscle spasms are not preventable. However, there are things you can do to lower your risk of getting them, as well as get rid of them when they show up.

Eat a balanced diet: A diet consisting of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, and a moderate amount of protein will help prevent and ease muscle spasms.

Get sleep: Making sure you get the recommended six to eight hours of sleep each night is important for staying healthy. It also allows time for your muscles and nerves to relax and recover, which makes spasms less likely.

Relax: Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, and deep breathing can help relax the mind and body, which reduces our risk for spasms. Soaking in a hot bath with Epsom salt can also relax muscles and relieve spasms.

Limit the bad habits: Quitting smoking will reduce your risk for spasm as well as reduce the length of time they last. Nicotine is a nerve stimulant, which increases your chances of having a spasm. Caffeine is also a stimulant, so limiting sodas and coffee can reduce the chances of muscle twitches and spasms.

Regular stretching: Stretching your muscles on a regular basis, and especially before and after exercise, can help reduce the risk of muscle spasms.

Muscle Spasm Treatment

Treatment isn’t typically needed for muscle spasms, as they tend to go away after a few days. The use of over-the-counter pain relievers or heat and ice therapy can help relax muscles in these cases. If a more serious condition is causing your spasms, then you may require treatment.

Depending on the diagnosis, your doctor will prescribe medication to help ease the spasms. Corticosteroids, muscle relaxants, and neuromuscular blockers are the most commonly prescribed medications to relieve muscle spasms associated with serious conditions.

Natural Treatment for Muscle Spasms

Muscle spasms occur from overuse, injury, or an underlying condition. Besides medications and rest, there are natural products you can use to reduce pain associated with muscle spasms. 

Curcumin is a powerful compound found in turmeric and other healing supplements. The anti-inflammatory nature of curcumin reduces pain triggered by muscle spasms. Boswellia serrata is another clinically-proven natural anti-inflammatory agent you can use to fight inflammation and reduce pain and swelling. 

Certain conditions can cause muscle spasms as a result of weakened or deteriorating muscle strength. Collagen is an essential component of bones and joints, but many do not realize it also supports skeletal muscle health. Injured or damaged muscles can benefit from additional collagen support. 

Regularly consuming collagen reduces the risk of muscular damage and spasms. In addition to this, you can enhance muscle growth and healing with krill oil. The beneficial omega-3 fatty acids in krill oil nourish muscles and promote repair.

When to See Your Doctor

Muscle spasms can be caused by overuse or stress, or they can be caused by a more serious underlying health condition. If the spasms occur frequently and along with other symptoms, you need to see your doctor. Spasms that do not go away are likely linked to a health condition that will require treatment.

It is important to seek treatment right away so as to avoid more serious and permanent damage. Muscle spasms could be a symptom of a condition you are unaware of, and immediate treatment will be the best way to protect your health.

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