Muscle Spasms: When They’re More Than Just a Pain in the NeckPublished: Jan. 13, 2022
Have you ever reached for something or picked something up only to find yourself nearly crippled with sharp, shooting back pain? What about that same kind of pain in your legs after a long day on your feet? If so, you may have experienced a muscle spasm – and it probably wasn’t caused by the reaching or lying down at the end of the day. Your muscle was likely strained or fatigued and trying to protect itself from further damage.
If you’re all too familiar with spasms, it’s time to give your muscles some TLC.
What Causes Spasms?
A muscle spasm is an involuntary contraction of muscle fibers – an automatic firing of the muscle instead of normal, purposeful activation. This protective response can feel like tightness, stiffness, cramping or even excruciating pain.
Although spasms typically occur in the calves, neck, shoulders and back, they can show up anywhere depending on the cause.
Overuse is one way a muscle may fatigue and spasm, but other causes include:
- Abnormal posture or movement patterns
- Injuries to surrounding body structures
- Electrolyte or hormone imbalances
- Underlying health conditions
Treatment and Prevention
When it comes to spasm treatment and prevention, there are many things that may help, including:
- Stretching regularly
- Staying active while limiting strenuous activity
- Staying well hydrated
- Managing stress with self-care techniques
- Massaging the affected area
- Applying ice or heat
Supplementing with magnesium and B vitamins is safe for most people. Ensuring that your diet has adequate calcium (through foods such as cheese, yogurt and almonds) and potassium (through foods such as bananas, sweet potatoes and leafy greens) is important, but supplementing these minerals should be done more cautiously, especially in those with underlying health conditions.
In some cases, physical therapy may be necessary, especially if abnormal movement patterns are the cause of your spasms.
If nothing seems to be alleviating your discomfort, certain medications may be helpful.
When To Call Your Provider
Typically, muscle spasms are no cause for great concern.
Ongoing bothersome and unexplained spasms that don’t seem to improve with the previously mentioned self-treatment methods may warrant a conversation with your primary care provider. You may be referred to a physiatrist who can take a closer look at what’s contributing to recurring spasms and offer a solution.
It’s important to note that muscle weakness and certain neurologic conditions may involve spasm-like symptoms. These conditions may also require further evaluation by a physician.
Bottom line: Don’t ignore recurring spasms when there are experts available who want to help. We’re here to improve your quality of life, especially when it comes to navigating annoying pain and ruling out more serious conditions.
- Find a primary care provider.
- Learn more about physical medicine and rehabilitation at Methodist.
- Learn more about physical therapy at Methodist.
- Read more articles from our Today’s Medicine section.