Muscle Spasms

A muscle spasm is usually painful and comes from an involuntary contraction of a muscle.  Like so many situations, there are many different types of muscle spasms.  Most muscle spasms may easily be treated through diet, physical therapy and medications.  That said, there are also some muscle spasms which are much harder to treat and pin down the exact cause.

We have three different types of muscles in our body.
The first is our Heart Muscle which is used to pump blood to all of our tissues. 

The second is our Smooth Muscle which lines all of our intestines, stomach, esophagus, bladder etc…   These muscles are involuntary in action.  The brain tells them when to contract and when to relax. 

The third type of muscle is our Skeletal Muscle.  These are the muscles that we flex.  These muscles are anchored to our bones, and we consciously tell these muscles what to do.  For the purpose of this discussion, these are the muscles that we will be talking about.

Causes of muscle spasms include straining a muscle, muscle cell dehydration, muscle trauma, and central nervous system diseases like cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis.  So, when a muscle spasm occurs, the brain is sending an involuntary message to the muscle to contract.  These mixed or involuntary signals being sent by the brain for the muscle to contract are directly related to the issue the muscle is facing such as dealing with the trauma or dehydration.

This is different than when we want a muscle to contract such as when we are exercising or basically doing anything that requires muscle coordination.  An involuntary contraction can last for a couple seconds, to a few minutes to even several hours and may be very painful.  When an involuntary message is sent to the muscle to contract, the muscle will stay contracted until the brain stops the message. 

Relaxation, stretching and breathing techniques will gradually help a muscle relax.  Proper hydration and nutrition are also key elements in appropriate muscle function.  These measures help when someone has exercised for an extended period of time and has fatigued the muscles which have led to cramping from dehydration and nutrient depletion. 

When someone incurs a muscle trauma or injury of some kind, proper hydration and nutrition may not be enough to calm a muscle spasm.   Proper evaluation by a physician may be necessary and they may prescribe medications such as anti-inflammatory or muscle relaxants for short-term pain relief.  The anti-inflammatory medication will help decrease the inflammation in an injured muscle while a skeletal muscle relaxant will help decrease the involuntary contraction signals being sent by the brain to the muscle. 

For more information on anti-inflammatory or muscle relaxant medications, visit and follow the link to the Medication Counseling Section.


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