Most people have experienced those sudden, painful muscle contractions that occur when you least expect it. The muscle can seize up, causing complete immobility, and you may be unable to use the muscle for some time. Spasms can occur for a number of reasons. Even certain diseases can cause frequent muscle spasms.
What Happens During A Muscle Spasm?
Muscle spasms are often called muscle cramps. You may be familiar with the common “charley horse” in which the muscles of the foot or leg cramp up just when you are falling asleep. These muscles are more prone to spasms, as are the thighs, hands, abdomen and muscles along the rib cage. The spasms come without warning. They can be short-lived or last for some time. They may come and go intermittently. The muscle contracts due to a mixed signal to the brain generally because of a change in the blood chemistry. Overuse can cause tender spots that can cause it to contract involuntary.
Causes of Muscle Spasm
Sometimes, the muscle is vulnerable to spasms because of overstretching or overuse. Spasms can often occur when you fail to warm up properly before strenuous exercise. Exercising in the heat may also cause muscle spasms, because dehydration can easily occur which triggers involuntary contractions. Poor circulation in the legs can cause frequent muscle spasms. Deficiencies of calcium or magnesium are often implicated in muscle spasm. Pregnant women may suffer from muscle spasms due to insufficient amounts of calcium in their diets. Vitamin B1, B5 and B6 are also implicated in muscle cramping. Nerve injuries can also cause involuntary contractions of muscles, especially in the neck or back.
Medications That Cause Spasms
A number of common medications can cause muscle spasms and cramping. Furosemide, hydrochlorothiazide and other “water pills” that are prescribed for high blood pressure can cause spasms. Procardia, prescribed for high blood pressure and angina can also have this side effect. Asthma medications, such as albuteral and terbutaline can also bring on muscle spasms. You should be aware that even common cholesterol-lowering drugs like Lipitor, Crestor, Zocor, Lescol and Mevacor can cause muscle spasms. Other medications for myasthenia gravis, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease can also have this unpleasant side effect.
Treating Muscle Spasms
When dealing with a muscle spasm, people often tense other muscles around the affected muscle, which has the effect of keeping it in spasm even longer. Instead, try massaging the muscle to get it to relax, which will also relieve the pain. Stretching out the muscle can help to relieve the cramp. You can also apply an icepack or heating pad to the affected muscle to encourage relaxation. A hot bath with Epson salts can also help. Prescription muscle relaxants may be necessary for frequent muscle spasms.
Preventing Muscle Spasms
Always hydrate your body when exercising. You should also hydrate before you begin your exercise routine and after you have finished. Ensure that you have a sufficient amount of calcium and magnesium in your diet. A high-quality multivitamin with B vitamins will also help to keep muscle spasms at bay. If you are taking medications that are known to cause muscle spasms, discuss the problem with your doctor. He may prescribe a different medication or may check for other medical issues that are causing the spasms. Quinine water, also called tonic water, can help to prevent muscle spasms, but it can also have side effects, such as vision and heart irregularities. Check with your physician before using quinine water to prevent muscle spasms.