What are Muscle Spasms and Strains?
However careful we are, we are always going to injure ourselves at some point in our lives. We can slip and fall over a puddle of water, or even twist our ankle when we play sports. Muscle spasms and strains can occur as a result of these injuries, although they can also occur when we overstress the muscles, or even in a variety of clinical conditions. Here we shall take a closer look at muscle pains and strains and how they can be managed.
Muscle spasms and strains can be troublesome and distressing. Causes can be numerous, and treatment depends on the cause. Painkillers have limited use, and treatment options should be directed toward treating the cause and allowing for the muscle to heal.
What Causes Muscle Spasms and Strains?
When we perform any form of activity, our muscles contract and relax, allowing for movement and speed. The muscles are only used to a particular degree of stress and strain, and anything that is over and above it can cause tiny tears and injuries to the muscle fibers. This can cause a muscle strain.
Sometimes, the muscles can remain in a contracted state, either due to a sudden burst in muscle activity or an increase in the nerve signals that supply the muscle. This is an involuntary effect called a muscle spasm.
Muscle spasms can be due to a number of causes. Some of these include:
- Excessive muscle strain
- Lack of electrolytes
- Diabetes mellitus
Certain medical conditions, such as lumbar disc prolapse, because spasms of the spinal muscles and muscle dystonias. Very fine muscle spasms can be seen in conditions such as multiple sclerosis. These are called fasciculations. Muscle strains may also caused by overexertion of the muscle without sufficient training or warm up.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
The symptom that is common to muscle spasms and strains is pain. The pain can be fairly severe and can even stop a patient in their tracks. Sometimes, just tiny muscle spasms can occur which can be more annoying than painful. These are called muscle twitches and rarely cause any pain.
Most cases of muscle spasms and strains are diagnosed from a simple clinical history and examination. However, if they are due to an underlying disease, certain specialized tests, such as a muscle biopsy, may be needed to analyze the structure of the muscle under a microscope.
How Are Muscle Spasms and Strains Treated?
Most cases resolve by correcting problems such as hydration and electrolyte imbalance. If muscle spasms occur, the best way to treat it initially is to gently stretch the muscle till the spasm is relived. In case strain or tears occur, resting the muscle helps the muscle heal itself. Swelling can be reduced by applying icepacks to the area. Simple painkillers such as acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can help manage pain due to muscle strains but are not necessarily useful in treating muscle spasms.
Muscle spasms that occur due to causes other than hydration and electrolytes can be effectively treated with muscle relaxants. Botulinum toxin injections can also help relieve the spasm and relax the muscles.