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.
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.
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
- 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.
“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
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