What Are the Causes of Involuntary Muscle Spasms?

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Involuntary muscle spasms, also known as muscle cramps, are contractions that are sudden and painful. Muscles spasms can be caused by dehydration, overuse of a muscle and holding a muscle in the same position for a prolonged period. Luckily, treatments are available to alleviate muscle spasm pain.

Man holding back of leg
Man holding back of leg

Causes

There are various reasons for muscle cramps. Holding a pen or pencil too long can result in cramping of the thumb and first two fingers. Lack of potassium in the diet and standing on concrete floors for long periods may lead to leg cramps. Narrowed arteries leading to your legs can limit blood supply and produce cramping and spasms in the legs.

Man writing with pen
Man writing with pen

Symptoms

Involuntary muscle spasms feel like sudden jolts of pain. A lump may be seen or felt where the pain originates. This may be caused by muscle knots that form when muscle spasms are continuous.

Woman resting on couch after spasm
Woman resting on couch after spasm

Risks

Your risk of muscle spasms increase if you are an endurance athlete, such as a marathon runner, or are older and overexert yourself when performing physical activities. Certain medications may also cause dehydration and result in muscle spasms.

Runner feeling spasm
Runner feeling spasm

Treatment

Your doctor will provide a flexibility and exercise program designed to stretch and strengthen muscles that are producing painful spasms. In addition, medical massage treatment loosens tight muscle knots, restoring blood flow to muscle tissue. Apply cold packs for 10 to 15 minutes several times a day to reduce inflammation and pain, and try a warm bath or heating pad to reduce pain in stiffened muscles.

Nurse holding patients chart                                                               Nurse looking at chart
Nurse holding patients chart Nurse looking at chart

Medications

Muscle relaxants such as Valium may be prescribed to relax stiffened muscles, while anti-seizure medications such as Tegretol may reduce muscle spasms in some patients. In addition, Botox injections in the affected area temporarily paralyze the muscle, relieving spasms and pain.

woman taking medications
woman taking medications

Prevention/Solution

Stay well hydrated, as fluid loss contributes to muscle spasms. Avoid exercising in hot weather, as sweating depletes your body of fluids, and stretch your muscles before and after exercising. Discuss with your doctor what you can do to avoid painful muscle cramps or spasms.

Woman drinking bottle of water
Woman drinking bottle of water

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