The Truth About Muscle Cramps & Spasms

Muscle spasms & cramps can be painful, irritating & downright scary depending on the severity.  Make sure you know all that you need to know about what causes these spasms & how to prevent them to save yourself time, pain & wasted effort.

 

spasms

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Normal vs. Abnormal Contractions…

Muscle spasms, sometimes referred to as ‘abnormal contractions’ may affect many different areas of the body leading to a wide variety of symptoms & presentations.

According to studies by NYU Medical centre, the following steps occur in a normal muscle contraction:

  • An electric signal is sent from the brain along the nerve cells in the spinal cord to the muscle

 

  • At the muscle, the motor neuron releases chemicals that stimulate the release of calcium ions from stores within cells of the muscle.

 

  • The calcium ions interact with proteins within the cells of the muscle

 

  • The proteins (actin & myosin) slide past one another

 

  • This motion pulls the ends of the cell together, shortening each cell, & therefore shortening the entire muscle creating movement at a joint.

 

  • The muscle fibre is able to relax once it recaptures the calcium & unlinks the actin & myosin.

Therefore, muscle spasms are caused by an interruption or abnormal stimulation of any of the 6 steps.

 

 

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Symptoms…

Most people affected by muscle spasms experience a cramp of the muscle & significant localised pain.  Spasms usually come on quickly & last a few minutes – & fading gradually.

Sometimes smooth muscles within the walls of hollow organs can spasm – causing intense pain.

Examples of this include:

  • Menstrual cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Gallbladder pain
  • Kidney stone pain

 

Typical Causes of Muscle Spasms…

One of the most common causes of skeletal muscle spasms is dehydration & electrolyte abnormalities.

It is important to give the muscles the correct tools in order to contract smoothly – if not they can ‘hitch’ the same way a car spasms when it is low on fuel.

Other typical causes of muscle spasms include:

  • Prolonged exercise:

When exercising – signals of pain & fatigue are good reasons to take a rest.  Ignoring these signals can lead to over-exertion of the muscle & spasms. A well designed training program will always take in account ideal rest periods between sets & pre-determine the tempo of each movement.

 

  • Salt Depletion:

Loss of fluids & salts – in particular sodium, magnesium, potassium & calcium can interrupt the balance of ions within the nerves & muscle.

 

  • Insufficient Stretching Before Exercise:

Stretching is important to help keep from hyperextending muscles, over-tension or excessive shortening of muscles & tearing muscles due to insufficient warm up or cool down periods.

 

  • Exercising in the Heat:

Which again, may cause dehydration – but in this case more quickly than you expect. Always make sure you are hydrated. A past post of mine explains how you can determine your optimal water in take for each day.

 

  • Magnesium or Calcium deficiency:

Keep your diet steady & balanced. Blood tests are the most accurate way to determine if you are in an optimal state. I always recommend having a full blood panel at least once every year.

 

  • Metabolic disorders:

These are inherited diseases that affect enzymes in the muscles. Again a lot can be gained through specific blood tests.

 

  • Malfunctioning nerves:

This may be caused by an injury or a pinched nerve – be sure to see a doctor if you think this may be the problem.

 

 

For Muscle-Building Workouts That Get You Results in 7-Weeks Click Here

 

Prevention:

“Treatment without prevention is unsustainable.”

  • Bill Gates

 

The Optimal Way…

The chance of developing muscle spasms is greatly reduced by eating a healthy diet & drinking adequate amounts of water. Doing this gives the body & thus the muscles the correct fuel to perform their duties as required.

It is also suggested that a warm bath before bed can help increase circulation & reduce the risk of nighttime leg cramps during the night! Adding magnesium salts to your bath will provide two major benefits:

  • You’ll replenish your magnesium stores. As it is one of the most abundant minerals in the body & involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions you’d be wise to keep your levels at optimum.

 

  • You’ll sleep better. Magnesium will help relax your body & mind. You will have a deeper more relaxing sleep if you take a magnesium salts bath. Try it & let me know how you get on.

 

 

To Your Best Health

ShapeTrainer Daniel Grant

 

 

p.s.

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Resources:

http://pain-medicine.med.nyu.edu/patient-care/conditions-we-treat/muscle-pain-and-spasm

http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/muscle-spasms-cramps-charley-horse

http://www.medicinenet.com/muscle_spasms/page2.htm

 

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