What Causes Muscle Spasms? How to Prevent Muscle Spasms
Have you ever felt your leg, neck, or back very suddenly tighten when you didn’t even do anything to them? You may be experiencing muscle cramps or muscle spasms, which is an uncontrolled and unexpected muscle contraction. If so, you know how painful it can get. And though it doesn’t usually pose a greater threat, you’ll find that using your affected muscle or body part seems impossible. It doesn’t just also affect your hamstrings or quadriceps, it can get you anywhere including your hands, ankles, ribs, jaw, and abdomen. And since they come and go, expect it to happen any time of the day, whether you’re sleeping, walking, and for the women, when having their period.
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Some types of muscle spasms include menstrual cramps, lower back pain, and even diarrhea. One common type that can also be so excruciating is “charley horse” where your calf muscles are affected. Although often used interchangeably, you should know that muscle spasms are different from muscle twitch. Muscle twitching is a small contraction that affects a small portion of a muscle while spasms involve the whole muscle. You can see your muscle twitching just under your skin and you might as well see or feel a hard lump beneath your skin if you’re having a muscle spasm. You are more likely to suffer from this condition as you age. This is because the muscles start to lose its mass and thus become overstressed much easily as you get older.
What Causes Muscle Spasms?
Various factors contribute as to why your nerves often experience glitches resulting into muscle spasms. It is essential to know about these contributing factors since doing so might help you determine the root source of your condition. It is likewise important to bear in mind that while it generally goes away, if these underlying causes are not immediately addressed, muscle spasms can worsen, indicative of a far more serious health issue. These are some of the causes you might want to take a look at:
What Causes Muscle Spasms – Muscle Strain Brought by Too Much Pressure
The muscles in our body have the natural tendency to protect themselves from strain caused by too much pressure and fatigue. It follows then that any type of strain or worse, injury, to the muscles, ligaments, and tendons can result into muscle spasms. That is why too much exercising which can bring lots of pressure to your muscles can be bad, especially when you didn’t start it and even end it with a warm-up or stretching exercises. In connection with this, another risk factor in pregnancy. Aside from a calcium deficiency that is common among pregnant women, the weight of the growing baby puts pressure on the body’s lower extremities, particularly in the calves. Lastly, holding a certain position for a long time like sitting or standing can cause the condition.
What Causes Muscle Spasms – Dehydration and Mineral Depletion
Athletes who usually experience muscle spasms due to overwork have dehydration to blame as a major culprit too. Yes, even when you are not an athlete, a fluid intake that is lower than necessary can make muscles to spasm. Drinking alcohol and herbal teas and taking diuretic medications can also bring the same effect. This is because diuretics can deplete the muscle and the body of vital fluid and electrolytes such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium. The muscles basically become hypersensitive since the nerves malfunction without sufficient water and minerals and thus, it contracts involuntarily. Not only dehydration but a poor diet can also add to the problem.
What Causes Muscle Spasms – Poor Blood Supply and Nerve Compression
When you exercise, your blood vessels particularly the arteries tend to narrow down and this can trigger a cramp-like pain in your extremities. How a poor blood circulation intensifies muscle spasms all the more is that the muscles aren’t receiving an adequate amount of oxygen and electrolytes the blood carries to the muscles where it is needed. Inflammation then ensues. The nerves compressing, on the other hand, can also lead to the painful experience, especially in the leg and lower back. A poor posture and a recent injury can bring about nerve compression in any part of your body, particularly your spine.
What Causes Muscle Spasms – Underlying Medical Issues
Diabetes, thyroid disorder, arthritis, degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, and liver disease are all common examples of anatomical conditions that can have muscle spasms as one of its symptoms. Basically, when your muscle spasms do not get better and instead get more and more frequent for up to 2 weeks, despite exhaustive lifestyle changes, then consulting your doctor should immediately be your utmost priority. This is not just any acute pain; your body through your muscles naturally reacts in response to the pain and inflammation signifying an underlying concern that demands a medical attention.
When to See a Doctor
Here are some symptoms that you should take seriously when having muscle spasms. When these are present, it is much better to consult your doctor right away.
- Inflammation or noticeable swelling and redness in your lower extremities such as the legs.
- Muscle fatigue that can often cause severe discomfort.
- It happens more frequently and does not seem to improve despite intensive self-care.
- It isn’t obviously brought by the aforementioned normal causes.
Now if you have already set an appointment with your physician, remember to make a list of all the symptoms you have experienced so far, your key personal information including major life changes and family medical history, all the types of medications you have taken including supplements, and all the question you need the doctor to clarify to you. Your doctor will ask you anything relevant to his diagnosis so answer everything as honestly as it should.
How to Prevent and Treat Muscle Spasms
As you most likely have been thinking, the usual causes of muscle spasms discussed above can be easily treated, even prevented. Below are 7 different ways on how to prevent and treat muscle spasms.
How to Prevent Muscle Spasms – Avoid Dehydration
Make sure to keep your body hydrated all of the time. Drink plenty of fluids every day depending on your body size. Though the general consensus is 8 glasses a day, you might need to drink more especially when you are physically active. An adequate water intake can also help address muscle heat exhaustion and intense sweating brought by a hot weather. You can also drink specialized fluids containing electrolytes like magnesium and potassium which is usual for the athletes.
How to Prevent Muscle Spasms – Stretch and Exercise
Maintaining a regular exercise, along with providing other important health benefits, is a very effective way of trying to prevent muscle spasms. The absence of proper stretching and warm-up exercises before and after might still render it useless though. Basically, proper stretching will help the muscles from becoming too strained or pulled and overly fatigued. Even a simple walking will stimulate your brain into thinking that your muscles need to contract and relax afterward. Finally, fix your posture, be it exercising or even simply walking.
How to Prevent Muscle Spasms – Proper Nutrition
There are many types of foods you can incorporate in your dietary program. Try consuming potassium-rich sweet potatoes. Or munching on magnesium-rich oatmeal. Have some calcium-rich yogurt for dessert. And don’t forget some sodium-rick pickles. All these foods along with others in the same group provide the necessary electrolytes or minerals that are needed to maintain an optimal condition of both the nervous and muscular system, thus, helping prevent muscle spasms. Try our Clean Eating Meal Plan: The Healthy Grocery List That Will Change Your Life
How to Treat Muscle Spasms – Heat and Cold Therapy
Using a heating pad or a simple warm towel will do the trick of untightening your muscles. You can likewise apply ice wrapped in a towel to help alleviate the painful sensation. You can use any of the two or alternate both therapies. Some people find it most helpful to do so.
How to Treat Muscle Spasms – Reduce Stress on the Muscles
As stated above, putting too much pressure can strain your muscles, resulting into painful muscle spasms. Therefore, it is vitally important to lessen the stress on your extremities, for example, on your lower back and you can do so by putting a pillow underneath your knees when lying on your back in the bed. Moreover, when you sleep, try not to keep your toes pointed. Keep them from bending downwards perhaps by not tucking in your sheets too lightly. Stress Effects On The Body
How to Treat Muscle Spasms – Take an Epsom Salt Bath
There is no wonder why athletes take a bath with Epsom salt after a strenuous day. Epsom salt is rich in the mineral magnesium that does not only relax the muscle as it naturally seeps into the skin but also detoxify the body. It is recommended to take a long and warm shower with Epsom salt or soak yourself in a bath filled with at least half a cup of it. But even as simple as applying and gently pressing a wet cloth soaked in an Epsom salt solution can be helpful. Top 10 Epsom Salt Bath Benefits
How to Treat Muscle Spasms – Treatment
After a consultation, your doctor will most likely prescribe a certain medication especially when your condition becomes recurring and is affecting your daily functioning already. Alternative treatment might include vitamin B complex supplementation or NSAID or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication that can lessen pain and inflammation. There are also muscle relaxants you can take such as Valium. In general, when it comes to medication, always remember to consult your doctor first rather than self-medicating.