We expect our muscles to comply with our every command without giving it a second thought. Whether it’s to get off the sofa and walk to the refrigerator for a snack or train for a marathon, our muscles usually do as they’re told. However, our muscles sometimes make their presence known with painful spasms or cramps. Although muscle spasms are usually temporary and harmless, some muscle spasms are a symptom of a more serious underlying condition.
What Is a Muscle Spasm?
A muscle spasm is caused by the involuntary contraction of a muscle. Spasms happen when muscles are overexerted, fatigued, or held in the same position for too long. Muscle spasms can be quite painful and can severely affect the range of motion of the affected muscle. Sustained exercise during hot temperatures is the main reason for muscle spasms, but there are many additional causes. If you regularly experience muscle spasms for no obvious reason, see a neurologist for a thorough examination and diagnosis of your condition. Other causes of muscle spasms include:
- Pinched nerves
- Inadequate blood flow to muscle
- Insufficient mineral supply
- Autoimmune diseases
- Damaged muscle tissue
Different Causes of Muscle Spasms
Several different conditions cause muscle spasms. These include:
- Dehydration – Muscles need the correct mix of water and minerals (glucose, salt, potassium, magnesium, and calcium) to function properly. A disruption in the supply of these minerals can cause muscle spasms.
- Atherosclerosis – This condition narrows arteries and can disrupt the supply of blood and electrolytes necessary for optimal muscle function. Also called peripheral artery disease, this disorder often causes painful muscle spasms and cramps in the legs.
- Chronic Pain – Chronic pain in the back and neck can lead to muscle spasms. Arthritis of the spine or an old injury to the trunk area can set off spasms since the trunk contains large muscle groups leading to the arms, neck, chest, back, and legs.
- Obesity and Other Conditions – Being overweight can lead to muscle spasms in addition to diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), anemia, diabetes, kidney disease, thyroid conditions, or spinal cord injuries.
How Can I Treat Muscle Spasms?
Prevention is the best defense against muscle spasms. If you’re going to exercise or work outdoors in the heat, you should make sure you’re drinking plenty of water before, during, and after your activities. Additionally, warm up your muscles before exercising or working by gently stretching them. If you do experience a cramp or spasm, stretch the muscle gently to its full length until you feel relief. Warm compresses and rest are also effective treatment options.
For muscle spasms caused by other underlying conditions, your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medicine such as ibuprofen, muscle relaxers, or Botox. Botox injections can be helpful to block overactive nerve signals that set off muscle spasms. Additionally, through a comprehensive examination and thorough testing, your neurologist will target a treatment plan for you based on your unique case.
If you’ve been suffering with muscle cramps and spasms, make an appointment today with one of the board-certified neurologists of Complete Neurological Care in NYC. Our team specializes in treating patients with muscle cramps, spasms, and weakness, in addition to wide variety of neurological disorders and pain management.