Muscle spasm
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A muscle spasm is an unexpected involuntary contraction of a single or group of muscles, hollow organ or orifice. Sudden pain usually accompanies the appearance of the condition although it is frequently harmless and may stop after a few minutes or days. Some types of muscle spasms stem from underlying conditions which may last as long as the problems are present. In some cases, the spasms can become very severe wherein it causes more forceful contractions resulting to damaged tendons and ligaments.


There are various types and subtypes of muscle spasms requiring different treatment approaches. The contractions can occur in areas that usually do several activities such as the hands, calves and feet. Neurological or muscular diseases may be the reason for muscle cramps although majority of occurrences do not include any disorder. Sometimes, muscle spasm may be defined as abnormal activity of the muscle which may not necessarily be painful. Examples would be muscle stiffness during rest, mild spontaneous contractions and slow relaxation of the muscle. Majority, if not all people have experienced having muscle spasms at some point in their lives.

Muscle pain and stiffness are two of the most common symptoms that arise during the sudden occurrence of muscle spasm. The pain is usually intense, localized in the affected muscle and can be debilitating from a few seconds to several minutes. These symptoms usually subside afterwards and the person can resume regular activities. Straining the muscle shortly after a spasm may cause the condition to recur. Severe cases of muscle spasm can be very painful in a way that the person cannot move, extend or flex the affected part. Others may feel the part swell or bulge firmly similar to a flexed position. The affected individual will not be able to use or move the area as long as the spasm is present.


If the cramping is caused by mineral deficiency, the person may have low calcium levels or hypocalcemia. In some cases, dehydration may also be a present symptom. Contractions may be described as radiating pain, fluctuating from severe to mild over several minutes or tender only when touched. Contractures may develop if the problem is not treated and persists for several weeks. As for muscle spasms affecting vital organs like the heart, the person may have chest, neck and jaw pain as well as atherosclerosis.
muscle spasm
Image: Muscle Spasm

There are 4 major muscle spasm types namely true cramps, tetany, dystonic cramps and contractures. These are classified according to specific causes as well as the groups of muscle affected. True cramps are known to be caused by nerve hyperexcitability which stimulates the single or group of muscles. This type involves part or the entire muscle or muscle group that work together such as muscles in the hands. True cramps may stem from injury as a defensive mechanism to protect and stabilize injured areas thereby preventing further damage. Muscle fatigue is also a cause due to prolonged activity or position. Dehydration, mineral deficiency like lack of calcium, magnesium and potassium and fluid shifts are also likely causes.


Tetany involves activation of all nerve cells in the body thereby stimulating muscles and causing spasms throughout the body. Common causes may be low calcium or magnesium which boosts nerve tissue activity. Pain masking other types of sensation in tetany may make it hard to distinguish from true cramps. Dystonic cramps involve muscles that are not truly necessary or supportive of the main affected part. Affected muscles are usually working in the opposite direction of the main movement. Contractures are defined as the inability of muscles to relax due to depletion of a cell chemical called ATP or adenosine triphosphate. This is quite common and can be genetic in nature.


Stretching the muscle is one immediate and effective way of treating muscle spasm. Stretching can be done by placing the affected body part or area in the stretched position by placing it against a flat hard surface like the floor or wall, standing up or walking around. Gentle massage is also very helpful to relax the tensed muscles. For better results, apply some warmth using mint oil or a heating pad. Instant replacement of lacking fluids and minerals can help balance fluids and electrolytes. The person may drink water, high-glucose beverages or eat fruits like a banana. Severe cases may require the patient to be infused with dextrose solution intravenously. Medicines are not frequently used since most episodes only last for a number of minutes even before absorption of drugs renders results.

For dystonic muscle spasm, some patients have been given Botox or botulism toxin shots. These help ease and relax the muscles. Patients may experience positive results for several months after which more shots may be recommended for continuous effects. Since a lot of cramps also stem from underlying conditions or diseases, treatment approaches may be focused more on alleviating the problem to remove the cramping symptom. Medications are then relied on to target infection and other diseases. One known drug that can actually help by reducing the hyperexcitability of nerves and muscles is Quinine. Other non-pharmacologic treatments include acupuncture, acupressure, physical therapy and breathing exercises.


Taking 325 milligrams of quinine sulfate or tonic water once every night is also done by many individuals as a preventive measure for muscle spasm. Knowing the diseases and conditions that can cause cramping and taking precautionary measures to avoid them are effective. People should also take sufficient fluids and minerals in order to maintain normal electrolyte levels in their bodies. At least 10 glasses of water a day is recommended as well as adequate intake of calcium, potassium and magnesium. Exercising is good but people should also be aware of proper stretching exercises and be careful about overtraining to keep muscles in optimum condition and avoiding fatigue. Some medications can actually cause the condition so individuals may eliminate recurrent muscle spasms effectively if they discontinue consumption.
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Medication commonly used for these disease:

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