Have you ever been at home or at work and suddenly felt a painful cramp in a muscle? It is something that happens to everyone and is generally not serious. However, how do you know when to seek medical attention for muscle spasm?
If you’ve experienced muscle cramps, you know they can be sudden and painful. They occur when one of your muscles or a group contracts involuntarily. Muscle spasms are common anywhere on your body, from the tiny ones in your eyelids to the large muscles in your calf and buttocks.
How many times have you woken up in the middle of the night with an excruciating spasm in one of your calves? You probably jumped out of bed to walk around and massage the sprains. These “Charley horses” are some of the most common muscle cramps that people experience.
Muscle cramps are usually felt in the center, but the spasms can be strong enough to affect the surrounding bones. The concern is that if this happens, a spasm can cause bone or joint damage.
Whether your spasms are small or major, they can be painful, even after they have subsided. Some cramps can affect your internal organs, as in the case of an overactive bladder. When your bladder has contractions, you can experience embarrassing urine leakage.
What Causes Muscle Spasms?
There are many problems that can cause muscle spasms. Fortunately, most of them are not serious enough to require medical attention. If you want to avoid these events in the future, you may need to take action. Here are some common reasons why you may experience muscle spasms:
Your muscles work hard for you every day, so it stands to reason that you feel tired and sore. According to the guidelines published by the American Institute of Stress, chronic stress can make your muscles tense and spasmodic. You may also notice painful muscle cramps when you have not had enough rest.
2. Overuse of muscles
Yes, your muscles are strong, but they can only hold up to a point. If you exercise too strenuous, you can pay off later with muscle cramps. Plus, it’s easy to overdo it at work, or even if you have to hold a certain position for a while.
Did you know that the side effect of some medications is muscle cramps? Talk to your GP if you think your medicine may be affecting your muscles. Remember never to stop or change your dose without medical advice.
If you enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning, caffeine will probably give you the energy boost you need. However, caffeine is a drug, and it can also cause muscle cramps or spasms. You may notice these small spasms as a twitch of the eyelid or a small tremor in your hands.
Have you been experiencing painful spasms in your muscles lately? It could be that you haven’t had enough to drink. Your muscles need water to stay toned and function optimally.
6. Electrolyte imbalances
Synopsis of a book published by The National Library of Medicine explains that your body needs electrolytes for cellular health and the interaction between your nerves and muscles. When these essential levels of vitamins and minerals are out of balance, muscles can spasm.
7. Incorrect body mechanics
Your posture and how you move your body are called body mechanics. When you keep your body in unnatural positions, it affects your muscles. Also, repetitive movements, constant bending, and lifting are a major source of muscle cramps.
8. Pregnancy and childbirth
When you are pregnant, your entire body is in limbo for nine months. The added stress of the baby and the weight of the pregnancy are hard on the muscles of the back and legs. It is common for pregnant women and even those who have just had a baby to have painful muscle cramps.
9. Underlying spinal conditions
Your spinal column protects your spinal cord and all of its branching nerves. When you have a spinal injury or disorder, it can pinch these nerves and cause painful muscle spasms. A medical specialist treats these spasms better.
10. Other serious medical conditions
In rare cases, muscle cramps are caused by underlying neurological conditions. However, these spasms are usually more intense and coexist with other muscular and nervous symptoms. They are also chronic rather than acute.
Most of these risk factors cause muscle cramps that are acute and resolve with personal care. Others may be delayed and will require more time to return to normal. You can successfully treat minor muscle cramps at home.
Self-help for muscle spasms
Although most muscle cramps are painful, they are usually not severe enough to seek emergency care. You may already know your risk factors even before you experience the spasms. Here are some helpful ways to soothe your spastic muscles yourself:
• If you feel a spasm during exercise or while moving in a certain way, stop the movement immediately and rest the sore muscle.
• Drink some fluids to hydrate yourself and replenish your electrolytes.
• Gently massage and stretch the affected muscle until it relaxes
• Use a combination of heat and cold to soothe sore muscles.
Ten reasons to seek medical attention for muscle spasms
These self-care tips listed above can help with minor spasms, and you should notice a difference in a day or two. However, these are ten cases where you should see a healthcare professional for your spastic muscles.
1. If your muscle spasms occur frequently
It is normal for people of all ages to have an occasional muscle cramp. You can bet on having them at some point if you are physically active. But if your spasms are chronic and intensify over time, it’s time to see a medical professional.
2. If you are experiencing mental changes, weakness or loss of balance
When these symptoms accompany spastic muscles, it can be a sign of a more serious condition. It could be a spinal or neurological problem. See your GP as soon as possible.
3. If the spasms cause other pain problems, such as back pain or spasms
Usually muscle cramps are internally limited to one muscle or a small group. Stronger spasms can not only affect your muscles, but they can affect other parts of your body as well. This condition is common for those with back or neck problems.
4. If the spasms do not resolve despite trying home remedies
Most of your Charley horse and muscle cramps are sharp, don’t last long, and will resolve with care at home. You can find relief with heating pads, ice packs, massage, or stretching. If your cramps continue after a week or two, you may consider a medical consultation.
5. If you notice discoloration, redness or swelling of the skin
Spastic muscles do not usually leave their mark. It hurts for a while, and then they go away. However, you should be concerned if you notice swelling or bruising around the cramping muscle. Report these symptoms to your healthcare provider right away.
Have you ever had chest spasms accompanied by shortness of breath? An article published by the Integrated Journal of Physiological and Behavioral Sciences states that the diaphragm often causes it. This muscle separates your chest from your abdominal cavity and you may experience painful spasms that affect your breathing.
7. If the spasms started when you started or increased a drug
As mentioned above, certain medications can make you more prone to muscle spasms. If you have just started taking medication or your healthcare provider increased the dose, watch for spasms. Report this to your provider as soon as possible, but do not stop or change the dose without medical advice.
8. If you also feel burning or tingling in the leg
If your job requires you to be on your feet a lot or if you are physically active, leg muscle cramps are not unusual. However, if these spasms give you a burning or tingling sensation in one or both legs, talk to your doctor. It could be a sign of a back or nerve condition.
9. If you are experiencing spasms after trauma
Often, it can be the next day or later before you feel the full effects of the trauma. First, you must seek emergency treatment after a serious injury. If you notice muscle spasms later, it could be an underlying problem that needs to be addressed.
10. If you are a senior
As you get older, those simple aches and pains are no longer so simple. You may have conditions that cause muscle weakness or joint swelling (arthritis). If you are an older person and experience chronic muscle spasms, it is essential that you speak with your healthcare provider about it.
When you abuse and overstretch your muscles, your painful cramps are a constant reminder. Most of the time, you can deal with simple muscle spasms at home. However, if they become chronic and the pain increases, you should seek medical attention.