How To Prevent Muscle Spasms

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To know how to prevent muscle spasms, it is essential to understand what they are and why they appear. Many factors can  contribute to muscle spasms and these should always be considered at diagnosis. Because  each case of muscle spasms and the situation  which causes them differs between patients, advice to improve or prevent muscle spasms will mainly focuson a change in each person's habits, but it cannot be assured that any simple adjustment or treatment will fully help the issue.

The best practices to prevent muscle spasms are:

  • Maintaining a good position of the body1 
  • Avoiding high-performance sports2 
  • Avoiding carrying heavy things2 
  • Keeping active instead of sedentary2  
  • Maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D3 

There are many different conditions and factors such as age, work, and diet that can significantly influence muscle spasms. Your doctor should explore the  possible causes of your spasms and ultimately give you ways  to handle them. This way, future spasms can be potentially be prevented.2 

What are muscle spasms 

Muscle spasms arecontractions or tensions of the body’s muscles that can produce pain or discomfort in patients. The contraction is uncontrollable and can cause temporary or prolonged immobility. Usually, these contractions occur in the lower back, neck, or any weight-bearing joint.4 

What are the symptoms of muscle spasms

Although the symptoms of muscle spasms are not typically severe,  they can limit your daily activities and can become particularly annoying and painful. The main symptom is pain in certain parts of the muscles which may progress to swelling  or redness of the skin at the site of the spasm. Pain and tension in the body may also become immobilising. 

What causes muscle spasms

Muscle spasms can be caused by various stimuli that generate this reaction.  Persistently experiencing  stressful events can shrink the muscles of the body so that  a contraction is generated at specific points in the muscle. Poor postures can also accustom the body to being in certain positions that are not appropriate. 

Muscle irritation can also be caused by lifting heavy things, habits such as a sedentary lifestyle, and/or a vitamin D deficiency., Other factors such as age, weight, physical activities performed, and food eaten could be the cause of your spasms.2,3 

What do muscle spasms feel like

 Muscle spasms can be felt as:

  • A muscle contraction (tight, squeezing sensation) in different body parts 
  • An immobilising sensation (where it may be difficult to move certain areas of your body)
  • Pain that can range from mild to so severe that a more substantial treatment is necessary to find relief

Depending on the location of the contraction, it can mimic other activities, such as breathing or walking.4 They may also cause symptoms such as muscle atrophy, weakness and hyporeflexia.1,2,5

Who gets muscle spasms and how common are they?

Muscle spasms can appear in anyone and are exceptionally common - at least 80% of U.S. citizens have suffered from muscle spasms. They are most common in geriatric patients due to immobility and mobility issues but children also have a risk of suffering muscle spasms due to the level of physical activities they perform. A sport which  demands a high level of physical endurance can significantly influence the presence of spasms due to the likelihood of acquiring injuries.  Lower Motor Neuron (LMN) syndromes can also predispose you to experiencing muscle spasms, particularly in old age.2,5 

There is also a  direct relationship between muscle diseases and suffering with spasms - 63% of patients with these muscle conditions have reported having muscle spasms.1

How to prevent muscle spasms: treatment and home remedies

To treat and prevent muscle spasms, it is essential to maintain good physical activity without placing  too much or counterproductive demand on the body. Additionally, food is essential when taking care of your muscles and foods containing vitamin D, B vitamins and potassium can help to strengthen muscles. It is also advisable to stretch your muscles and maintain good posture habits . You should also try to sleep appropriately without keeping the body in an optimal position that reduces stiffness. 

When having spasms, it is essential to encourage physical activity such as walking, stretching, or range of motion exercises rather than sitting or lying down and waiting for them to pass on their own. Non-pharmaceutical therapies are also a good option,  such as putting heat in the area where the spasm is located 

When to seek medical attention?

If the pain persists after trying all the above mentioned treatment and prevention strategies, it is crucial to speak with a doctor or specialist who can advise on which pharmaceutical treatments might benefit you such as oral medications or  injections. Analgesics and anti-inflammatories are the most common when relieving pain and eliminating muscle tension. Additionally, if the pain appears after physical activity and is unbearable or immobilising, it is also essential to go to a specialist as soon as possible. 

Summary

Muscle spasms are contractions of the muscles that generate pain in the body. They can be widespread but where they are located varies by person. They are particularly common in elderly patients, children and those who partake in high-performance sports. Other common causes can be stress, poor posture,  weight, or poor diet. The best way to treat them is at home with stretching, massage, and heat. In case that this does not work, you may be offered physical therapies  or appropriate medications (such as muscle relaxants) by your doctor depending on your particular case. 

References

  1. Roland, M.O. “A critical review of the evidence for a pain-spasm-pain cycle in spinal disorders,” Clinical Biomechanics, 1(2), pp. 102–109. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/0268-0033(86)90085-9.  1986
  2. McCarberg, B.H. et al.  “Diagnosis and treatment of low-back pain because of paraspinous muscle spasm: A physician roundtable,” Pain Medicine, 12(suppl 4). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1526-4637.2011.01253.x.  2011
  3. Cai, C. “Treating vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency in chronic neck and back pain and muscle spasm: A case series,” The Permanente Journal, 23(4). Available at: https://doi.org/10.7812/tpp/18.241.  (2019)
  4. Schlesinger, E.B. and Ragan, C. “‘muscle spasm’ in acute low back pain and similar syndromes,” The American Journal of Medicine, 1(5), pp. 621–627. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/0002-9343(46)90085-x.  1946 
  5. Miller, T.M. and Layzer, R.B.  “Muscle cramps,” Muscle & Nerve, 32(4), pp. 431–442. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1002/mus.20341.  2005

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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