What are muscle spasms and cramps?
The terms muscular spasm and muscle cramps are often used interchangeably. But these two are quite different from each other in terms of their painful effects and the duration for which they occur. Muscular spasm means a situation when a muscle in the body involuntary contracts and then relaxes on its own. Muscle cramp means when the spasm lasts for seconds to several minutes. Muscular spasms and cramps can affect muscle groups like:
- Leg muscles particularly in the calves.
- Back or front of the thigh
- Back of the lower legs
- Muscles around the rib cage
- Lower back
How do I know if I have got a muscle cramp or spasm?
Here are some signs of muscular spasms and cramps:
- Sudden twitching in the muscles.
- Sharp pain.
- Formation of a hard lump of muscles beneath the skin.
While these signs and symptoms of muscular spasms generally go away on their own in a few minutes, you must seek immediate medical care when:
- Your spasms occur without obvious causes like lifting heavy weights or exercise.
- The cramp doesn't abate on its own.
- You see redness in the skin.
- The spasm is accompanied by pain or tremors in the back, neck, or head.
- Slowing down of body movements or lack of coordination.
- Double vision.
- The cramp doesn't go away even after treatment.
- You experience spasms and cramps too frequently.
Who is at a risk for muscle spasms and cramps?
There are certain categories of people who are at a higher risk for muscular spasms. These include:
- Children and older adults.
- Pregnant women.
- Athletes who do high-endurance exercises.
- People who don't keep themselves adequately hydrated.
- People who suffer from nerve disorders.
- People who have thyroid-related problems.
- Diabetic people.
- People who have liver disorders.
What causes muscle cramps and spasms?
Several triggers become underlying reasons for muscle cramps. Here are some of the most common causes of muscle cramps:
- Dehydration is one of the most common reasons for muscle cramps, especially during a high-intensity workout.
- Sitting for long durations.
- Poor posture.
- Inappropriate footwear while walking or working out.
- Overusing or straining of a particular muscle.
- Not warming up before exercise also causes muscle cramps.
- Stress and anxiety are also common causes of muscle cramps.
- Inadequate blood supply due to narrowing of arteries.
- Compression of nerves in your spine i.e. lumbar stenosis. This condition produces cramps while walking.
- Muscle cramps occur due to accumulation of lactic acid in the body.
- Deficiency of minerals like potassium, magnesium, and potassium in your diet.
- Long-term dependence on diuretics.
- Musculoskeletal injuries.
How to treat muscle cramps and spasms? HR medicines
Muscle spasms and cramps are common and are mostly non-serious. Muscle cramps treatment is fairly easy. Here are some very effective home remedies for leg cramps:
- Immediately stop doing the activity that caused the muscular cramps. These may be walking, running, exercising, etc.
- Since dehydration is one of the main causes of muscular cramps, always keep yourself hydrated especially during summers and when you are exercising.
- One of the most effective muscle cramps remedies is to massage the spot where it has occurred.
- For a cramp that doesn't go even after a massage, you can try pinching the spot. Holding the pinch for a few seconds helps in relieving spasms.
- Another effective muscle cramps remedy is to use hot or cold therapy. Remember a heating pad must always be followed up with an ice pack to relieve the inflammation.
- You can take a warm shower or a tub bath to relax and loosen your muscles.
- If you are experiencing a severe muscular spasm, your doctor may prescribe a medicine for muscle cramps and spasms. These generally include muscle relaxant or a pain killer.
- Other effective medicine for muscle cramps is an over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicine.
- Your doctor may prescribe supplements like salt tablets, vitamin B12, or magnesium supplements depending on the cause of your muscular spasms.
- A great home remedy for muscle spasms is to take pickle juice. This juice helps in balancing any electrolyte imbalance that you might have.
- Another effective muscle cramps treatment is applying topical pain relieving creams and ointments that contain camphor, turmeric, and menthol to help relieve you of the pain.
Which are the best exercises for alleviating muscular spasms and cramps pain?
Gentle exercises for cramps have tremendous benefits and are easy to do too. Doing these gentle movements help by:
- Enhancing your blood circulation.
- They help in releasing endorphins that act as pain blockers.
- Your muscles get warm and relaxed that helps in pain relief.
Here are some of the most effective exercises for muscular spasms:
- Yoga for flexibility: Yoga asanas provide a gentle workout to your fatigued muscles and help increase stamina. Not only this, but they also help in addressing the underlying causes of your spasms.
Here are some yoga asanas that you can do:
- Trikonasana (Extended triangle pose)
- Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart and arms at your sides.
- Step your feet wide and turn your right foot out 90-degrees as you align your right knee with your right ankle.
- Raise your arms to the side to shoulder height so that they are parallel to the floor.
- Exhale and reach through your right hand in the same direction as your right foot.
- Tilt your tailbone and pelvis towards the wall. Rest your hand on the outer shin.
- Gently turn your head to look at your right thumb.
- Hold for a minute and repeat on the reverse side.
- Balasana (Child's pose)
- Get on your hand and knees and exhale.
- Keep your hands flat on the floor in front of you and lower your hips backward till they rest on the back of your heels.
- Lower your forehead to the floor and extend your arms in the front.
- Hold for a few moments and exhale as you come back up.
2. Stretching exercises: These are not only great for stretching fatigued muscles but are also very effective strengthening exercises for muscle cramps.
- Thigh stretch:
- Stand straight and hold on to a chair for maintaining balance.
- Bend your leg at the knee and reach your leg from the hip.
- Hold your ankle and pull your foot up towards your hips.
- Repeat 4-5 times.
- Lie on the floor with a small ball placed under the spot where the spasm has occurred.
- Relax and breathe deeply.
- Move the ball to adjoining spots and repeat for 4-5 times.
- Neck stretch:
- Sit or stand upright and start circling your shoulders in all directions.
- Roll your shoulders in the opposite direction.
- Repeat both movements 10 times.
How to prevent muscular spasm?
Here are some effective ways to prevent muscular spasms:
- One of the best ways to prevent muscular spasms is to stay hydrated at all times.
- Doing warm-up and stretching before working out can prevent muscle cramps.
- Concentrate on building strong lean muscle that helps in reducing cramps and improving flexibility.
- Eat foods rich in magnesium and potassium like green vegetables, beans, bananas, etc.
- Use compression stockings while working out.
- Wear appropriate footwear while working out or walking.
- Keep a check on your posture while sitting, standing, working out, and sleeping.