Muscle Spasms

What are muscle spasms?

A muscle spasm, or muscle cramp, is an involuntary contraction of a muscle. Muscle spasms occur suddenly, usually resolve quickly, and are often painful.

A muscle spasm is different than a muscle twitch. A muscle twitch, or fasciculation, is an uncontrolled fine movement of a small segment of a larger muscle that can be seen under the skin.

What causes muscle spasms?

Spasms may occur when a muscle is overused, tired, previously injured, or strained. The spasm may occur if the muscle has been overstretched or if it has been held in the same position for a prolonged period.

Other factors that can lead to muscle spasms include:

  • Overuse and muscle fatigue
  • Dehydration, and electrolyte abnormalities
  • Chronic neck and back pain can lead to recurrent muscles spasms

What are the symptoms of muscle spasms?

The symptoms and signs of muscle spasm depend upon the muscle involved and the circumstances leading up to the spasm. A bulging, tight muscle may be seen or felt underneath the skin where the muscle is located. Most often, the spasm resolves spontaneously after a few seconds though it may last many minutes or longer. Usually, those affected will feel the need to stretch the muscle involved, thus relieving the spasm and resolving the episode. With heat cramps, the muscle spasm may occur minutes or hours after the activity is completed

What is the treatment for muscle spasms?

  • Simple at-home treatments, such as applying a heating pad or ice on the affected area, may be recommended for short periods, several times a day. Soaking in a warm bathtub may also offer relief.
  • Gently stretch and massage the spasmodic muscle.
  • Hold it in a stretched position until the spasms stop

If the muscle spasm is severe, happens frequently, responds poorly to treatment, and is not related to obvious causes, make an appointment with your doctor. The spasms could be related to underlying factors. Your doctor may prescribe medications or administer an injection to help relieve your symptoms.

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