Muscle spasms are one of the most common conditions experienced by numerous individuals regardless of their lifestyle, job, and age. They can occur at any given time and in any muscle or group of muscles in the body. Oftentimes, muscle spasms are quite painful, however, one can also have a mild attack wherein the pain is limited to minimal twitching and discomfort which lasts anywhere between seconds and minutes. Of course, if one is prone to recurring muscle spasms, they may experience intense pain for days or even a week or so.
The good news, however, is that most times, muscle spasms can be treated at home with some simple pain-relief remedies. With that said, if the pain is very severe or does not subside with self-treatments at home, it is advisable to visit a doctor for a proper, medical course of treatment. Before we get into the causes, symptoms, and treatment for muscle spasms, let’s talk a little more about what the condition is.
What are Muscle Spasms?
Otherwise referred to as muscle cramps, muscle spasms occur when one or more muscles contract and tighten uncontrollably. There is no way to gain control over the muscle when spasms occur as it is an involuntary action. For the muscle to stop contracting and pain to be alleviated, the muscle must be made to relax which, in turn, will release the tightness and hardness plaguing it.
Spasms typically occur in muscles or muscle groups in the calves, thighs, upper back, arms, abdomen, feet, and hands. As we mentioned earlier, muscle spasms can occur at any time, even at night when you are sleeping. These spasms are typically experienced in the calves and are known as nocturnal leg cramps.
What Causes Muscle Spasms?
There are a number of things that can cause the muscles in your body to contract involuntarily. Some of the more common causes include overworking the muscle, extreme fatigue, and muscle pain caused by other factors. Individuals who are often stressed out or suffer from anxiety can also be prone to muscular contractions due to the body being tensed. It is said that the more relaxed you are, the better your body will rest which, in turn, allows your muscles to also relax. Muscle spasms caused by anxiety or stress are typically experienced in the face in the form of twitching.
It should be noted that spasms do not only occur when a muscle is directly affected; for example, when nerves become pinched due to excess pressure from surrounding soft tissue, it can trigger spasms in the muscles. Other causes of muscle spasms include working out in high temperature environments, exercising when your body is not warmed up enough, and dehydration before a workout or strenuous physical activity.
Additionally, some underlying health issues have also been linked to muscular contractions including neurological conditions and nerve disorders. Therefore, it is advisable to seek medical attention if/when muscle spasms are severe or a regular occurrence.
Symptoms of Muscle Spasms
Individuals experience different types of muscle spasm symptoms, one of which is visible twitching just under the skin. These symptoms are not always painful but are often uncomfortable and difficult to ignore as you try to go about a regular day.
Here are some of the most common symptoms of muscle spasms and what they may feel like:
- Painful cramping in the muscle
- Complete stiffness in the muscle
- Muscles that are hard to the touch
- Twitching or involuntary jumping movements in the muscle
- Visible twitching beneath the skin
- Lack of mobility in and around the affected muscle
If the muscle spasm is being caused by an underlying health issue related to the neurological system, an individual may experience one of the following symptoms:
- Weak muscles
- Pain located in the head, neck, or lower/upper back
- Lack of coordination
- Numbness in the skin
- Pricking sensation
- Poor sleep
- Slow movements
How to Treat Muscle Spasms
While more often than not, muscle spasms subside without any treatment, if you are experiencing an attack that has lasted for more than several minutes or even days, there are a few things you can do to ease the symptoms and relieve pain. They are as follows:
- Locate the muscle and gently massage it
- Slowly (as gradually as possible) stretch the muscle
- Stop any physical activity as soon as the muscle spasm begins
- Apply heat in the form of a hot bottle or heating pad; this will help loosen and relax the muscle
- If the muscle is sore and cramping, use cold compression to soothe it
- Drink plenty of water
- Take prescription drugs – muscle relaxants or painkillers
Chiropractic Treatment for Muscle Spasms
Restoring normal joint mobility in the spine and the rest of the body alleviates aches and pains, and helps to manage muscle spasm symptoms as well. With chiropractic adjustments or manipulation of the spine and joints, your body and muscles are able to relax and function better.
A chiropractor may also use other therapies to treat muscle spasms that essentially manipulate the soft tissue. These include gentle massaging and stretching techniques that aid in reducing muscle spasms, scar tissue, and fluid buildup. Other therapies and techniques used by chiropractors to treat muscle cramping include electrical stimulation and hot and cold compression – the benefits of which are pain relief, prevention of recurring injuries, and increased circulation to muscles. In addition, chiropractors typically recommend physical therapy and exercise to strengthen muscles and maintain optimal flexibility of the same.
Depending on your diagnosis, you may be required to have multiple sessions of chiropractic adjustments, as well as associated therapies in order to successfully treat muscle spasms and alleviate related symptoms.
Here at MSK Therapy, we offer a wide range of non-invasive therapies to treat muscle spasms including chiropractic care, physiotherapy, and massage therapy. With regular adjustments and proper guidance on how to perform at-home treatments to alleviate and prevent muscle spasms, our medical professionals will ensure that you are on the right track to bidding muscle cramps goodbye!