All you need to know about muscle spasms

All you need to know about muscle spasms

24 Mar 2022

Almost everyone has experienced muscle cramps or spasms at least once in their life. While generally harmless, muscle cramps cause quite an inconvenience and are often quite painful. Read on to find out everything you need to know about muscle spasms.

What are muscle spasms?

Muscle spasms or cramps are the sudden and painful tightening or contraction of your muscles (1,2,3,4). People who have experienced muscle spasms describe them as uncomfortable twitches that range from mild to intense. Consequently, the pain that they produce also varies from mild discomfort to severe pain.

Cramps are common, involuntary, and often, unexpected. Most cases of cramps generally last for a few minutes. These spasms or cramps are typically harmless, though they do cause some mild discomfort because of the temporary pain they produce.

The exact cause behind spasms is yet to be determined. However, some risk factors, such as age, poor posture and/or general poor physical condition, are believed to trigger the twitches (6).

What causes muscle spasms?

As stated earlier, the exact cause of a muscle spasm is still unknown. However there are some factors that can increase the risk of having them (1,2,3,4).

Inadequate blood supply

When the arteries that deliver blood to your muscles narrow, they might lead to muscle cramps and pain (7). Usually, this occurs when you are exercising or doing intense movements (8).

Nerve compression

The compression (pinching) of nerves in your spine might lead to muscle cramps (9).

Micronutrient deficiency

Deficiency in essential minerals in your diet, like magnesium, might lead to muscle cramps (10).

Lack of stretching

Muscle cramps are more likely to occur when the body is stiff (12). Daily stretching can decrease the chances of experiencing muscle cramps (11).

Tired muscles

After a grueling workout, your muscles are more likely to spasm due to a myriad of reasons (13). Factors such as lack of blood supply, dehydration, or even nerve compression, are thought to be the cause (14).

Dehydration

As mentioned earlier, lack of water in your body might lead to muscle spasms (15). Muscles tend to be stiff and sore when they lack water (16).

Exercising in the heat

Physical activity under the sweltering sun might cause muscle cramps (17). Working out in the heat can lead to dehydration and general muscle fatigue, two factors that may lead to muscle spasm (18).

Long periods of inactivity

Sitting for too long or even simply retaining an unnatural posture for too long can lead to muscle cramps. This can specifically cause muscle cramps in your legs (19).

What should I watch out for?

Muscle spasms vary in intensity. This means that for some, it can just feel like a mild, uncomfortable twitching on your sides. While to others, the pain can be debilitating. Usually, it’s hard to touch the area experiencing the spasm (2).  One important thing to keep in mind is that muscle spasms are sudden and often come without warning.

Muscle spasms

Conditions that predispose a person to muscle spasms

There are some risk factors when it comes to muscle spasms. These factors might increase the risk of you experiencing cramps. Here are some of them (1,2,3,4):

Age

As people age, they tend to be more susceptible to experiencing cramps. This is because we are likely to lose muscle mass as we age. This causes the remaining muscles to be overstressed as they need to carry more load (20).

Line of work/habit

Athletes or people often involved in sports, especially when they stay too long in the heat, are more likely to experience spasms due to muscular fatigue and dehydration (16).  

Pregnancy

Pregnant women are more likely to experience muscle spasms or cramps. This is why many pregnant women complain about muscle spasms in legs (21).

Other medical conditions

Some medical conditions can cause you to be more likely to experience muscle cramps. Consult your doctor if your pre-existing conditions put you at a higher risk (22).

Muscle spasm treatment

Generally, muscle spasms go away on their own after a few minutes. Some treatments or methods however might help provide relief from the pain or might expedite healing. Here are some of those (1,2,3,4).

Stretching and massaging

Slowly and lightly stretching the affected muscles can help alleviate pain and hasten recovery. Consult a doctor or professional on how to properly stretch and massage the affected parts.

Ice pack

Applying an ice pack to the affected area can help the muscle cramp subside quicker (23).

Medication

Some medicines can help alleviate the pain and control the cramping of your muscles (24).

If the cramps are taking too long or you are feeling a tremendous amount of pain, head to an emergency room or immediately consult your doctor.

How to prevent muscle spasms

Here are some daily activities you can do to help prevent muscle cramps (1,2,3,4):

Daily stretching

Daily stretching helps keep the body limber and stops it from becoming stiff.

Hydrate

Always make sure to drink water, especially when you are outdoors or are doing intense physical activities like sports or working out.

Take proper vitamins and minerals

Make sure that you are taking adequate amounts of essential vitamins and minerals either from your food or supplementation when your diet is inadequate.

Magnesium for example is important in a lot of our body’s processes. Magnesium, particularly, helps in the relaxation and contraction of our muscles (5). Deficiency in magnesium might lead to an increased instance of cramps.

If you are on the hunt for a suitable magnesium supplement, Vitable’s Magnesium supplements are a good choice since they not only help relieve muscle cramps but also help reduce their occurrences as well.

Muscle spasms often happen once in a blue moon and when they do, they are generally harmless. Nevertheless, it helps to be equipped with the knowledge of how to deal with them when they do occur.

Are you looking for a vitamin delivery service in Australia that covers your magnesium needs? Consider Vitable Vitamins! Their vitamins subscription provides you with a custom vitamins pack that not only gives you magnesium. You can also mix and match to come up with your daily vitamins!

*Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional. Vitamin and/or mineral supplements should not replace a balanced diet.

References:

  1. Muscle Cramp (n.d.) Researched Jan 8, 2022 from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/muscle-cramp
  2. Muscle Cramp (2021) Researched Jan 8, 2022 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/muscle-cramp/symptoms-causes/syc-20350820
  3. Muscle Spasms (2021) Researched Jan 8, 2022 from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15466-muscle-spasms
  4. Muscle Cramps (2021) Researched Jan 8, 2022 from https://medlineplus.gov/musclecramps.html
  5. Magnesium (2001) Researched Jan 8, 2022 from https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/magnesium
  6. https://physioprofessionals.com.au/poor-posture-contributing-muscle-joint-problems/ Feb 2022
  7. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/muscle-cramp/symptoms-causes/syc-20350820 Feb 2022
  8. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/muscle-cramps#:~:text=Heat%2C%20Dehydration%2C%20and%20Electrolyte%20Depletion,cause%20a%20muscle%20to%20spasm. Feb 2022
  9. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pinched-nerve/symptoms-causes/syc-20354746 Feb 2022
  10. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/magnesium-deficiency-symptoms#:~:text=Twitches%2C%20tremors%20and%20muscle%20cramps,the%20muscle%20nerves%20(%207%20). Feb 2022
  11. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/muscle-cramp/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350825 Feb 2022
  12. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/21190-muscle-cramps feb 2022
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6901412/ Feb 2022
  14. https://medlineplus.gov/musclecramps.html Feb 2022
  15. https://www.medicinenet.com/muscle_spasms/article.htm Feb 2022
  16. https://dynamicmedicalfitness.com/blog/dehydration-tight-muscles Feb 2022
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6901412/ Feb 2022
  18. https://www.healthline.com/health/heat-cramps  Feb 2022
  19. https://healthmatters.nyp.org/is-too-much-sitting-harming-your-body/ Feb 2022
  20. https://muschealth.org/medical-services/geriatrics-and-aging/healthy-aging/cramps-and-spasms feb 2022
  21. https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/pregnancy-health-wellness/muscle-cramps-during-pregnancy/ Feb 2022
  22. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/21190-muscle-cramps#:~:text=Muscle%20cramps%20can%20be%20a,circulation%20problems%20and%20liver%20disease. Feb 2022
  23. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=85&contentid=p00918 Feb 2022
  24. https://www.medicinenet.com/muscle_cramps/article.htm Feb 2022