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Prevention & Treatment of Muscle Spasms

Cynthia Luo, RMT - Registered Massage Therapist & Shiatsu Practitioner

muscle spasm

Spasm: It is a sudden, involuntary, sustained contraction/twitch of a muscle or a group of muscles. It can happen on any skeletal muscle that is under your voluntary control.

Cramp: Another name is Charley Horse. It is a specific term for a painful spasm. It comes all of a sudden with strong, painful contractions or tightening of a muscle(s). It can last from a few seconds to 15 minutes or occasionally longer.

The Negatives of a Muscle Spasm

Tenderness and tightness of the involved muscle. It can affect or stop movements as well as lock the joints.

The Positives of a Muscle Spasm

Sometimes it can be helpful. For people with some muscle movement disorders, it can help to gain strength to stand or walk.

The Causes of the Spasm

  • Muscle fatigue or injury

  • Stress

  • High humidity

  • Extreme heat/cold

  • Pregnancy

  • Infection

  • Clothing that is too tight

  • Inadequate blood supply to the muscle (narrowing of the arteries) e.g. Atherosclerosis

  • Nerve compression: Sciatica, Piriformis Syndrome, Thoracic Outlet Syndrom, etc.

  • Use of diuretics and other medications

  • Metabolic disorders

  • Neuron disorders

  • Muscle flaccidity

  • Poor gastrointestinal absorption (IBS, coeliac disease, crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis)

  • Tight muscles

  • Excessive sweating

  • Physical exertion of cold muscles

How to Prevent a Spasm

  • Gently stretching the muscles before exercising or going to sleep

  • Avoiding extremely hot or cold temperatures

  • Wearing loose-fitting clothing

  • Getting adequate quality sleep

  • Avoiding sitting or sleeping in one position for a long period of time; change the position at least every two hours

  • Drinking enough water; drink extra water especially after high amounts of sweating, during your period, during breast feeding, catching a flu, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.

  • Avoiding exercising immediately after eating

  • Proper/balanced nutrition including calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium

How Can Massage Therapy Help a Spasm?

Strain-Counterstrain Technique is a very gentle technique. It can be applied for reducing acute/chronic and/or muscle spasms anywhere in the body. The procedure for this application is as follows:

  1. The muscle(s) should be in the relaxed or short state

  2. The therapist identifies the muscle in spasm by sight or palpation

  3. Hold the spasm muscle(s) or the tender points for at least 90 seconds. It could take longer, up to 5 minutes, until there are changes in the muscle(s) and fascia around the muscles

  4. It can reduce pain by 70 – 100%

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