Cynthia Luo, RMT - Registered Massage Therapist & Shiatsu Practitioner
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
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
Poor gastrointestinal absorption (IBS, coeliac disease, crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis)
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:
The muscle(s) should be in the relaxed or short state
The therapist identifies the muscle in spasm by sight or palpation
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
It can reduce pain by 70 – 100%