What Are Muscle Spasms?
Muscle spasms (or cramps) are sudden, involuntary contractions in one or more of your muscles. They can last from a minute or two to an hour or longer, depending on the cause. The most common places for muscle spasms are the calf, the thighs (or quadriceps) and the back. In The United States, a leg cramp is also called a “Charlie Horse”.
The most common causes of muscle cramps and spasms are:
- Over-extending the muscles during physical activity
- Improper lifting of heavy items
- Soft-tissue injury
- Low Potassium levels
- Low Magnesium levels
- Electrolyte imbalance
What Does Pseudohypoparathyroidism Have To Do With Muscle Spasms?
Low blood Calcium is a symptom of Pseudohypoparathyroidism, and as a result, affects normal muscle function which can cause muscle spasms (this is also known as Tetany). Tetany can cause severe cramps in any large muscle groups and can also cause minor spasms in the hands, feet, upper lip and even eyelids.
I also suffer from Scoliosis (which may be an indirect symptom of Pseudohypoparathyroidism) and this can also influence muscle spasms in the back. The spinal curve that is developed from Scoliosis pulls certain back muscles too tightly which can intensify muscle spasms and make them last longer than they ordinarily would.
How Do I Treat Painful Muscle Spasms?
The cause for a sudden painful leg cramp is most likely caused by dehydration, so drinking plenty of water is imperative. Drinking Gatorade or Powerade can also be helpful if a person has been very physically active.
I have been awoken a few times with intense back pain due to muscle spasms. The intensity of the muscle spasms can affect my breathing and even induce nausea. The causes for back pain and muscle spasms can be a little difficult to always determine but here are a few things I do when I am suffering from painful back muscles:
1) Apply a towel wrapped ice pack for 10-15 minutes. Sometimes this is effective enough to numb the muscles and calm them down. If not, then I proceed to step 2.
2) Take a warm bath with Epsom salts. The warm water helps relax the muscles and the Epsom salts contain magnesium, which is absorbed through the skin. Magnesium is important for healthy muscle function. Epsom Lotion applied to the skin is also beneficial.
3) If I can stomach to eat any food, then I eat a light snack and take some anti-inflammatory over the counter drugs, such as Ibuprofen or Naproxen Sodium. Taking these on an empty stomach will cause nausea.
4) If I have any topical analgesic products, such as Ben Gay or Icy Hot, then I will use them on the affected area. Applying this type of product to aching muscles will help alleviate some of the pain.
Muscle cramps usually go away and don’t become serious enough to require medical care. However, if you are having chronic muscle spasms (possibly due to over-extending the muscle group or even a soft-tissue injury) and none of the above steps is helping, then please see your primary care physician. Alternatively, a massage therapist may be another option to relieve your pain or if you are currently seeing a Chiropractor, schedule an appointment and inform him or her about the muscle spasms you’ve experienced.
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