Muscle Spasms can happen in any Muscle of the body, including skeletal muscles, like those in the calf, back, thigh, or hand, or smooth muscles, such as those in the digestive tract. A muscle spasm is an involuntary contraction of the muscle, usually from dehydration, excessive muscle overload, or a depletion of necessary electrolytes. This can also happen in response to nerve stimulation. Though the treatment of muscle spasms depends on the muscles involved and the cause of the spasm, most spasms aren't severe and can be treated at home.
EditTreating Muscle Spasms at Home
- Stop doing the activity. When a muscle spasm begins, stop your activity. Spasms can happen during exercise or while doing normal daily tasks. At the first sign of a spasm, stop what you are doing and try to deal with the spasm.Although they can be painful, there are generally no long-term concerns.
- Try massaging or rubbing the area with the spasm. This can help relax the muscle and increase blood flow to the area.
- Rest the affected muscles. Rest them for a few days after the spasm, especially if it was a back spasm. Soreness is common after spasms. Your muscles may be strained and should get some time to recover without additional stress. Make sure to gently move the muscle during this time to prevent any stiffness.
- You may use the affected muscle lightly, but stop using it if you feel a cramp or pain coming on. Try gentle walking or stretches, but don't twist or bend the torso.
- Stretch. If you experience a muscle spasm or cramp, stretching can help. When you stretch, you pull the muscle in the opposite direction of the contracted muscle, elongating it. When you stretch, you want to gently lengthen and pull the affected muscle. Don't overextend the muscle. If you start to feel pain, stop. If it feels tight, hold it but don't go any further. Hold each stretch for approximately 30 seconds.
- For calf cramps (Charley horse), stand a few feet from a wall. Place forearms against the wall while keeping the knees and back straight. Heels should be touching the floor. Lean forward. You should feel the calf muscles stretching. The feeling should be pleasant or neutral. If you feel any pain, stop.
- For foot or calf cramps (Charley horse), sit down and flex the toes on the cramping leg upward toward the nose. You can also gently pull the foot towards your head. You should feel pulling in your calf or foot muscles.
- For a hamstring cramp, sit on the floor and extend your legs in front of you. Your feet should be neither pointed or flexed. Bend at the waist while keeping your back straight. Lower your chest towards your legs. Stop bending once you feel the stretch in the back of your legs.
- For a cramp in the thigh, hold on to a stable surface, grab your ankle, and gently pull your foot back towards your rear. The pull will be along the front of your thigh.
- For a spasm in the hand, rest the palm flat against the wall and push the hand against the wall with the fingers facing down.
- Perform gentle exercises for back spasms. If you are experiencing back spasms, gentle exercises may help. Only do exercises with a spasming back when the pain has lessened or the cramping is minimal. Don't do them if the back spasm is severe or very painful. If any of these exercises makes the spasm worse, stop.
- Walk around as you lift your knees higher than normal and keep your back straight. This provides a gentle stretching movement to your lower back that may help uncramp the muscle.
- Raise your arms over your head. Repeat 10 times, and hold for 5-10 seconds. Do this 3-4 times per day. This helps stretch the muscles in your back.
- Lie on the floor and pull a knee gently to your chest. Hold for 10 seconds and switch sides. Repeat 5-10 times, 2-3 times a day. You can also pull both of your knees to your chest. These movements stretch out your lower back while letting the rest of your muscles relax and "unkink."
- Use a heating pad or cold press. Heat causes muscles to relax and stop spasming. Cold can help swelling and pain. The first time a spasm occurs, use a cold press. Put an ice pack on the affected area the first couple of days. Keep the ice on the spasm for 20-30 minutes every 3-4 hours. Then, if the spasm persists, use moist heat for 20-30 minutes throughout the day.
- Remember the phrase: "heat to play, ice to stay." Use heat when activity will occur afterwards. Use ice when you will be sedentary and resting after.
- Apply heat for 15 minutes every 4 hours until the cramp is gone. Apply a cold press for 12-15 minutes every 2 hours for the first couple of days.
- Use a heating pad or a heat patch, or an ice pack or an ice patch. You can also try a bottle full of hot water or frozen water. Or try wrapping ice in a cloth or a pack of frozen peas.
- Drink fluids and electrolytes. When your muscles are dehydrated, it is important to get enough hydration. Water and electrolytes (in the form or juice, sports drinks, etc..) can help you replenish a decreased supply. Sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium are needed for your muscles to adequately contract and relax.
- If you know you'll be exercising a lot or using your muscles vigorously, make sure to replace these nutrients with an electrolyte drink and water.
- Muscle spasms can sometimes indicate a deficiency in vitamins or minerals in the body. Make sure to take high-quality multivitamins and multi minerals.
EditTreating Muscle Spasms With Medicine
- Treat spasms with over the counter pain relievers. Sometimes muscle spasms can cause extreme pain. Ask your doctor about taking over the counter pain medicine, such as nonsteroidal anti-infammatory drugs (NSAIDS). These include ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen sodium (Aleve). You may also try acetaminophen (Tylenol).
- Take anti-inflammatory medications. These reduce any excessive inflammation or swelling of the affected area. Anti-inflammatories can also help increase blood flow to allow the area to heal. Your doctor will likely recommend that you take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication (such as Ibuprofen) as the first line of treatment.
- Ibuprofen side effects most commonly include gastrointestinal issues, but they're lower than the effects from aspirin. Ibuprofen side effects include: nausea, heartburn, diarrhea, indigestion, constipation, abdominal cramps, dizziness, headache, nervousness, or rash.
- Take muscle relaxers. If you have an injury or a muscle that is causing constant or repeating spasms, you should see your physician. Your doctor can prescribe medicine that will help relax your muscles and increase blood flow. Talk to your doctor if any medicine you take causes muscle spasms.
- Flexeril (cyclobenzaprine) is a commonly prescribed medication for moderate to severe muscle spasms that works on your central nervous system to relax your muscles. While this is helpful, NSAIDs (like ibuprofen) have been shown to relieve acute symptoms from muscle spasms more effectively.
- Some muscle relaxers are highly addictive. Keep this in mind and monitor intake.
- Talk to your doctor if spasms are chronic. You should be able to treat muscle spasms at home. But, if spasms are too painful, occur frequently, last a long time, or affect additional muscles, you should see your doctor. The spasm might be a sign of an underlying problem that needs treatment.
- Muscle spasms themselves are not usually a diagnosis. Instead, spasms can mean that there is another issue that needs to be diagnosed and treated. The issue can range from simple overuse of the muscle to an underlying metabolic disorder for chronic spasms.
EditTreating Smooth Muscle Spasms
- Recognize the symptoms of smooth muscles spasms. Symptoms of these spasms be different depending on the muscles involved. Spasms of the intestines can cause sharp pain and diarrhea. Urinary tract spasms often happen when kidney stones are present, causing severe pain, nausea, and vomiting. If you notice respiratory tract spasms or trouble breathing, seek emergency medical attention. They can be fatal if not quickly treated.
- Rule out or treat intestinal problems, such as gallbladder stones or tumors. Urinary spasms will often lessen once you pass or remove kidney stones. You might be able to use medication to treat the pain while waiting for them to pass.
- Seek medical attention for spasms of the digestive tract, urinary tract, or respiratory tract. Unfortunately, you can't control these smooth muscles, found in organs like your heart and stomach. Spasms in these muscles can sometimes mean there's an underlying medical condition.
- Take medication. If you have severe smooth muscle spasms, your doctor may be able to prescribe you medicine. For example, medications such as anticholinergic agents can help intestinal spasms that do not respond to diet and lifestyle changes.
- Your doctor may prescribe medications to restore neurotransmitter levels or Botox to paralyze the affected muscles. You should discuss these options with your doctor.
- Try antispasmodics if you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). If you have IBS, you may experience a spasm of the intestine. Antispasmodics help the intestines relax, which helps relieve pain. Talk to your doctor if you have spasms of the intestine, and your doctor can prescribe the proper antispasmodic and treatment plan.
- Schedule bathroom trips for bladder spasms. One way to treat bladder spasms is to go to the bathroom every 1.5 to 2 hours. This helps keep your bladder empty, so hopefully fewer accidents occur. As the spasms decrease, you can take longer between bathroom breaks.
- Kegel exercises, also called pelvic floor exercises, can also help bladder spasms by strengthening and relaxing the bladder. To tighten your pelvic muscles, squeeze your bladder muscles like you were trying to stop urine from flowing or trying to stop yourself from passing gas. Your physician can give you specific instructions if you are struggling to get them right.
- Try a heat pack for abdominal spasms. Heat packs may help relax cramps and spasms in all muscles of the body. Lie on your back and wrap the heat pack around your abdomen and be sure to avoid direct contact of the heat pad with your body. Keep the heat pack on for 10 to 15 minutes and no more than 20 minutes at a time. Relax while you wait.
- To make your own heat pack, find a large piece of flannel or cloth. It should cover your abdomen when you fold it. Cover the cloth with a heating pad or heated water bottle. Wrap a bath towel or other fabric around you to keep everything snug and in place.
EditPreventing Muscle Spasms
- Drink plenty of fluids. Staying hydrated is an important part of preventing muscle spasms. Muscles are more likely to cramp up if they are dehydrated. This is vital if you are working out. Drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water or healthy drinks throughout your day.
- Replace electrolytes, especially sodium and potassium, when you're exercising or sick. You can do this through diet or electrolyte-enhanced beverages.
- Practice good nutrition. Keep healthy by eating the right foods and nutrients. This can prevent muscle spasms. Adjusting your diet can help relieve intestinal spasms caused by irritable bowel syndrome. Potassium, antioxidants and healthy fats are especially good for muscle spasms. These foods are known to help with spasms:
- Bananas, potatoes, prune juice, dried fruits, oranges, brown rice, avocados, spinach, seafood, almonds, flaxseed, oats, sesame seeds, tofu, and kale.
- Exercise. Regular exercise can help reduce muscle cramps since it stretches and strengthens the muscle. This can help injured muscles. Gentle physical therapy can gradually help the muscle heal, which may reduce spasms. Regular exercise also improves your overall health.
- Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about what exercises will help your muscles.
- Stretch regularly. Since spasms occur when a muscle contracts, stretching helps prevent these contractions. Stretching exercises keep your muscles loose and flexible. Make sure to stretch your muscles before and after any exercise, especially if the exercise is rigorous or for an extended period of time.
- If you have muscles that often cramp at night, stretch those muscles before bed to loosen them up. You may also try light cardio, like riding a stationary bike, before sleeping to loosen the muscles and prevent cramps.
- If you have chronic or recurring spasms, be sure discuss this with your doctor. Everyone has experienced spasms at some point, but continued spasms and cramping is a possible sign of underlying causes that need medical attention.
- Freeze water in a styrofoam cup. Remove the bottom of the cup and massage the ice into the muscle. Massage into the cramping area for 10-12 minutes. Rest for 20 minutes. Then repeat. Do this 6 times a day.
- Take a hot bath or shower to try to relieve the cramp. If you're taking a bath, pour Epsom salt into it.
- Treat a Back Spasm
- Treat a Cramped Muscle
- Control Bladder Spasms
- Avoid Leg/Foot Cramps in Bed
- Reduce a Charley Horse or Muscle Spasm