If you have ever faced sudden pain and throbbing in the body after moving in a certain way as well as plainly sitting in a single place for a long time that can seem unbearable, you have experienced muscles spasms.
Muscle spasm can occur at any time of the day and often without any warning causing cramping and throbbing along with pain. They have various terms and are known as leg cramps, muscle cramps, and charley horse
A large number of people have muscle spasms and throbbing pain especially in the legs every other day of the week or even multiple times in a single day without knowing that some of their daily habits such as lack of exercise, poor diet, and posture are to be blamed for the pain.
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What Are Muscle Spasms?
While people from almost all age groups get muscle cramps, a majority of the people are not even aware of what happens in when they get a spasm. A muscle spasm happens due to involuntary actions of one or more muscles in the body.
Putting it simply, it is just the tightening or cramping of muscles in the affected area without you even making any effort to move it and stay this way for a period of time because of your inability to relax. The most common areas to get muscle spasm are the neck, legs, and the back.
For adults, the most typical places to get a muscle spasm are calves, hamstrings, lower back, quadriceps, and feet. It is also possible to get spasms practically anywhere in the body including ankles, ribs, hands, and abdomen.
You might have noticed you get muscles spasms more often when you are under constant stress and not taking care of yourself. They come and go depending on your diet, exercise routine, sleep patterns and a couple of other factors. For women, the menstrual cycle also plays a big part.
Muscle spasms are experienced by most of the people regardless of whether they watch their diet and exercise as they come with some of the prevalent health conditions.
The common examples of muscle spasms you might have experienced are menstrual cramps, lower back pain, and diarrhea.
Out of all other types of muscle spasms, the most painful and agonizing one is said to be the charley horse which occurs in the calves. The pain described in charley horse is so excruciating that it can wake you up from sleep.
You can also get other types of muscle spasms by common movements that you do in your everyday life such as getting out of bed, bending, tilting your head, standing up, sitting down, and plainly just after exercising.
According to the studies on muscle spasms and its links with different factors, age seems to play a big role. The older you get, the higher is the possibility of getting muscle spasms such as the ones mentioned above.
Why is this so? Because during the process of aging, the body undergoes several changes such as losing muscle mass. Less muscle mass in the body means other muscles are under increased pressure to provide the support needed for all the movements.
People who are more likely to have muscle spasms have some of the habits many of people have in today’s time such as a poor diet since nutrients, anti-inflammatory antioxidants and natural muscles relaxers are all obtained from food.
Other factors that can have a big effect on the possibility of getting muscle spasms are high levels of inflammation, pregnancy, poor circulation, PMS, and women who are having their menstrual periods.
Are Muscle Spasms and Pulled Muscles The Same Condition?
It is a common misconception that pulled muscles and muscle spasms are two terms used for the same condition. This is not true, especially when considering the fact that spasms are typically temporary and harmless while pulled muscles are totally different from this.
A pulled muscle because anyone or two muscles in a particular area of your body are injured, torn, or strained. Pulled muscles occur due to sudden movements of the body parts, overworking, or high levels of inflammation.
Pulled muscles can be of different types depending on the person and the cause. Acute muscle pulls, which generally come from sudden movements, twisting, trauma, or a fall, are seen the most and are temporary.
On the other hand, serious cases of muscle pull occur gradually due to building up of inflammation in the affected area of the body and can last for much longer periods of time.
Some of the most common types of muscle pull that you might have also experienced are spraining ankles, twisting, and throwing out the back. These can happen to anyone and take a maximum of a day to go away.
Overuse muscle pulls are usually seen in athletes or someone who is very active with a vigorous exercise routine.
They can happen to you especially if you have been working on the same muscles back to back without having enough time for the muscles to heal. Bursitis and tendonitis are two types prevalent of overuse muscle pulls.
The important question that is asked after knowing the difference between a muscle spasm and a muscle pull is that how exactly you are able to tell which one is he or she experiencing especially when the pains in both are somewhat similar.
The answer to that question is simple. Look out for small signs and the circumstances. For example, when you have a muscle spasm, there is a high possibility that you have not slept properly, are not taking a good diet, or are dehydrated.
Some of the other things to differentiate a pull from a spasm are inflammation and swelling. You can also try gently pressing or stretching the affected area.
If doing this helps you relax and reduces the pain, you are having a cramp or a muscle spasm since pulls muscles do not relax this way.
What Causes Muscle Spasms?
Muscles and their actions are normally controlled by the signals sent by the nervous system through the network of nerves. There can be all types of reasons that can cause these signals to mix up or malfunction.
If you are doing one or have the following circumstances, they are likely to be the reason behind your muscle spasms:
- You have poor blood circulations (signs include cold feet/hands and blue or purple tint visible in toes and fingers)
- You are not taking enough fluid/are dehydrated (mostly because of exercising in the heat or drinking too much alcohol)
- Your diet is poor/lacks in essential nutrients and has foods that cause fluid retention/too much salt (especially vital electrolytes such as potassium and magnesium)
- You have spasms after staying in the same position for a long period of time along with an unstable and bad posture (usually neck or lower back spasms)
- You skip the essential warm up before exercise and stretching after it
- You are pregnant (muscle spasms are most common in pregnant women)
- You are exercising and putting a lot of pressure on the same muscles continuously (especially on your calves and legs)
- You have finished long-distance exercise (which can cause electrolyte imbalance and fatigue)
- You are expecting to get your menstrual periods soon (or have them)
- You have an existing health concern (such as liver disease, diabetes, and thyroid disease)
- You have the calcium deficiency
- You have recently had an injury (especially around the neck, spinal cord, and lower back which causes pinching of nerves)
What Is the Treatment?
In most of the cases, muscle spasms are harmless and go away with certain improvements in lifestyles and changing exercise routines.
However, many times they can also indicate a serious underlying condition and cause electrolyte imbalance, nerve damage, constant changes in blood pressure, and abnormal fluid levels along with the pain.
If lifestyle changes are not relieving your muscle spasms and you keep getting them, it is better to visit a doctor or physicians to check whether they are occurring due to some other reason.