Muscle Spasms

20 Jan Muscle Spasms

  1. What are Muscle Spasms?
  2. How are they caused?
  3. What are effective treatment and prevention?
  4. How can Chiropractic Care help me feel better?


A muscle spasm occurs when a muscle fiber or groups of fibers contract but are momentarily unable to release. The spasm can often be uncomfortable, causing pain or other symptoms depending on the type and location of muscle fibers involved. In our body, the 2 predominate types of muscle fibers are skeletal and smooth. Skeletal muscle exists throughout our musculoskeletal system, motorizing the joints of our limbs, torso, posture, and overall movement. Smooth muscle is internal and not voluntarily controlled- important locations of smooth muscle (and spasms) include the esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines. Both muscle types in any of these locations can spasm, with skeletal muscle spasm being the most common.

There are numerous causes for muscle spasms. The mechanism generally relates to the production and buildup of Lactic Acid, and deficiencies of certain electrolytes which are important for muscle cell contraction and relaxation. Three most common reasons for a muscle to spasm occur is in the setting of: overuse, electrolyte abnormalities, and dehydration (which in turn can also affect electrolyte levels). Essential electrolytes for healthy muscle function are: Sodium (Na), Chloride (Cl), Potassium (K), Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg), and Phosphate (PO4). These electrolytes communicate electrical impulses and facilitate the shortening movement of a muscle fiber. Electrolyte deficiency can result in weakness or cramping. This is because of weaker electrical signals or less ions available to promote the relaxation phase of a contracted fiber.

Other important causes may be related to decreased blood circulation in the legs, especially if someone has Peripheral Vascular Disease. Muscle spasms may also be related to inadequate stretching prior to intense physical exercise, pinched spinal nerves, and medications like diuretics, cholesterol lowering drugs (statins), breathing treatments, or raloxifene for osteoporosis.

Treatments for muscle cramps can vary depending on the cause. In general, broadly effective therapies include stretching and massaging the affected muscle; Ice packs help decrease inflammation affecting a cramped muscle; relaxing levels of heat in the form of a hot shower, warm bath, or moist heated towels can relax the muscle fibers. Also, over-the-counter (OTC) pain relief medications can be effecting while the muscle slowly re-stretches (often painfully). Such medications include Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, and Naproxen. A topical treatment may be helpful, such as Icy-Hot, Bengay, or Voltaren Gel.

Chiropractic treatment options can provide an effective addition to your muscle health and recovery. Most often, Musculoskeletal Manipulation, medical massage, muscle stimulation, and physical therapy provide noticeable improvement in symptoms. Speak with your local Physician as well as a Chiropractor discuss if you would be a good candidate for specific therapies.

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