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Muscle Spasms - Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Published on Sep 16, 2022 and last reviewed on Feb 21, 2023   -  5 min read


Muscle spasms are frequent symptoms and are nothing to be concerned about. However, this article explains its causes, symptoms, and prevention.


Muscle fibers are an essential element of the muscular system. Contractibility is their primary function. The body's movement is controlled by muscles attached to bones, internal organs, and blood vessels. Nearly all actions in the body are due to muscle contraction. Muscles are complex structures that allow the body to move. Muscles in the body are divided into three categories.

  • Blood is pumped by the heart muscle (cardiac muscle).

  • External body components such as the arms and legs, neck, back, trunk, and face constitute skeletal muscle.

  • The hollow structures inside the body are moved by smooth muscle. They are muscles that border the esophagus, stomach, and intestines and the muscles that line major arteries and the uterus.

What Is the Importance of Skeletal Muscle?

Walking and running are visible movements produced by joints, bones, and skeletal muscles combined. Skeletal muscles also generate subtle signs, such as facial expressions, eye movements, and breathing. Muscle contraction serves a variety of critical roles in the body, including posture, joint stability, and heat production, in addition to movement. Muscle contraction keeps one's posture, such as sitting or standing, in place. The skeletal muscles are constantly fine-tuning themselves to keep the body in fixed positions. Many muscles' tendons cross joints and contribute to joint stability. This is especially true in the knee and shoulder joints, where muscle tendons play a key role in joint stabilization. Heat generation is an essential by-product of muscle metabolism to maintain body temperature. Muscle contractions account for over 85 % of the heat produced in the body.

What Is a Muscle Spasm?

A muscle spasm, often known as a muscle cramp, is an involuntary muscle contraction. Muscle spasms are unpleasant and occur unexpectedly. They generally resolve rapidly. Muscle spasms are not the same as muscle cramps. A muscle twitch, also known as a fasciculation, is a tiny uncontrolled movement seen under the skin of a small section of a more significant muscle. Muscle spasms can cause anything from minor discomfort and stiffness to sudden, sharp, and excruciating pain. This pain may hamper normal muscle function. When a muscle contract during a spasm, visible muscle knots or twitching may occur, and the affected muscle may feel hard to the touch. Spasms are uncontrollable and can take a long time to diminish. Following that, the power may feel sore and tender.

What Causes Muscle Cramps?

The important causes of muscle cramps include:

What Are the Symptoms of Muscle Spasms?

When a muscle spasm occurs, it shows specific symptoms, which include:

  • Muscular weakness.

  • Skin numbness.

  • Discomfort in the back, neck, or head.

  • A sensation of pins and needles.

  • Tremors.

  • Paralysis.

  • A lack of cooperation.

  • Slow motions.

  • Sleep Issues.

Who Is at Risk for Muscle Cramps?

According to a specific concept, muscular spasms are caused by increased signals delivered from the neurological system to the muscle. As a result, the muscle is overstimulated by recurrent muscular activity, which can cause a cramp. Muscle spasm is more common in some people mentioned below.

  • Athletes.

  • Pregnant women.

  • People who suffer from medical conditions, such as thyroid and nerve disorders.

  • Older adults.

  • Obese people.

How Are Muscle Spasms Diagnosed?

The following methods are used to diagnose muscle spasms:

  • Personal history.

  • Medical history.

  • Creatine phosphokinase (CPK) blood test.

  • Computed tomography (CT).

  • Electromyography (EMG).

What Are the Treatments for Muscle Spasms?

Usually, we do not need treatment for muscle cramps.

You may be able to find some relief from cramps by:

  • Stretching or lightly massaging the muscle helps relieve muscular cramps by sending inhibitory signals to the stimulating power, preventing involuntary muscle contractions. Passive stretching decreases muscle activity, and most muscle contractions stop after 10 to 20 seconds. The stretch should be held for 30 seconds or until the muscle twitching stops and the muscle length returns to normal.

  • When the muscle is tight, apply heat, and when the muscle is sore, use ice. Heat is frequently used to treat more persistent ailments such as muscle spasms. Heat can be applied to muscle spasms to help them relax. Ice is usually the initial step within 24-36 hours following an acute injury, such as a sprain or fracture, where swelling or inflammation is visible.

  • If you are dehydrated, drink additional fluids. Sports and energy drinks can help you replace electrolytes if you conduct hard exercise or exercise in the heat.

If the cramps are caused due to other medical conditions, treating that condition will most likely assist. Muscle spasms are usually harmless. However, they can be caused by a medical problem. One example is arteriosclerosis, a disorder that causes artery narrowing. Blood flow to the body's extremities, such as the legs and arms, can be impaired in people with arteriosclerosis, resulting in oxygen and nutrition deficiency and muscular cramps. Compression of nerves in the lumbar spinal cord, the lowest major component of the spine, can also cause muscle spasms, particularly leg cramping that worsens while walking long distances. Muscle spasms are common in neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

How to Prevent a Muscle Spasm?

Unfortunately, there is no established strategy for totally avoiding muscle spasms. On the other hand, a daily regimen of muscular stretching and proper conditioning for the sport or activity will teach the muscle to prevent overstimulation. Although plyometric workouts, eccentric muscle strengthening programs, and muscular trigger point therapy can all be beneficial, their efficacy requires more research. It is challenging to avoid muscle spasms. However, there are a few steps that might help you prevent muscle spasms and overcome such complications:

  • Flexibility exercises should be done regularly.

  • Medications with the potential to cause muscle spasms should be avoided.

  • While sleeping on the back, use pillows at night to keep toes pointed upwards to prevent leg cramps.

  • Drink plenty of water.

  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine.


Muscle spasms are common and should not be taken seriously. The most prevalent reasons are overexertion, dehydration, and stress. It can usually last from a few seconds to several minutes, but they typically go away independently. Relaxing, gently massaging the affected area, and applying heat or cold to the site may be therapeutic.


Last reviewed at:
21 Feb 2023  -  5 min read




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