Muscle spasms are involuntary and forcible contractions of muscles, or even just a few muscle fibers. If a spasm is forcefully sustained and doesn’t relax, then it ripens into a cramp.
A charlie (charley) horse is a common term many use to indicate they either have a muscle spasm or cramp, typically in a thigh or leg muscle. This charlie of a horse is very often caused by dehydration and/or lack of potassium.
A muscle spasm can occur in any muscle and you may be able to see or feel the hardened muscle, like a knot. Sometimes, muscle spasms will occur with such force that they’ll leave a bruise behind.
Muscle spasms are caused by chemical messages sent from nerves that instigate tightening up. Some spasms occur because a nerve is irritated, like when a herniated disc irritates a spinal nerve.
There are many underlying health related situations for causing muscle spasms symptoms, for instance:
- kidney failure
- nerve damage
- heavy exercise
- multiple sclerosis
- wearing high heels
- certain medications
- metabolic problems
- cervical spondylosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Huntington’s disease
- muscle fatigue, overuse, injury
- thyroid disorders ~ hypothyroidism
- hypocalcemia, hypomagnesemia, hypokalemia, hyponatremia
- dehydration caused by vomiting, diarrhea, hyperhidrosis,polyuria
Muscle spasms in your hands or feet may be an early sign of tetany. Tetany is caused by a problem with your body’s calcium levels, which can be brought on by:
Your spasms might be brought to you along with symptoms of:
Calf spasms often occur while kicking, as during swimming, or at night while in bed. Thigh spasms are more common while participating in running or jumping activities. And neck spasms can be caused by tension due to stress.
When a muscle goes into a spasm the pain it causes can be severe. And embarking on a physical activity when you haven’t consumed enough fluids nor minerals creates a likely scenario you’ll experience one.
When you first notice your charley horse, stop what you’re doing and treat it by stretching or massaging the spasm. If it persists, heat treatment can assist in relaxing that muscle. And NSAIDs can help relieve any residual soreness.
Hydration is the key to fending off any future charlie horses. However, just drinking water may not sufficient. Then, try an electrolyte containing sport drinks to replenish lost minerals. Also, supplementing calcium and vitamin D may be required as well.
Eat a banana a day to help keep the charlie horse away.
In more severe spasm cases, as with muscular health conditions, you may be prescribed antispasm medications. If nerve irritation is causing muscle spasms, more drastic treatment may be necessary, such as physical therapy or surgery.
And speaking of spasms, there is one other type that deserves a note. It’s that throat or chest pain you feel after taking a big gulp of a carbonated beverage. You know the one that lets up after a couple of seconds. This is an esophageal spasm, and it can lead to dysphagia.