MUSCLE SPASMS VS. MUSCLE CRAMPS
Written by: Akhilesh Dev | Posted: August 9, 2019 at 4:53 am | Total Comments: 11
What is muscle spasm?
Like muscle soreness, it is harmless, but even more unpleasant. Muscle spasm occurs when the muscle uncontrollably and painfully contracts and stays in that position. So muscle spasm is an involuntary and powerful muscle contraction, without relaxation, causing visible or palpable hardening of the affected muscle.
Muscle spasm can affect any skeletal muscle. It can affect the hands, the abdominal muscles, the muscles around the ribs, the legs and toes. The spasm can last from a few seconds to 15 minutes in severe cases.
What about muscle cramp?
Both occur when a voluntary muscle goes into a contraction on its own. The difference between a spasm and a cramp is the intensity of that contraction.
In the case of a muscle spasm, the muscle will quickly contract and then release without causing any pain. On the other hand, when the muscle contraction is prolonged and painful, it is referred to as a muscle cramp.
What causes it?
Despite the fact that almost all people are affected by muscle spasm, the exact reasons are still obscured. What we know for sure, spasm occurs when the mechanism that controls muscle contraction and relaxation is temporarily impaired.
There are a number of physiological conditions for achieving effective muscle contraction and relaxation, and if any of these are not met, the potential for muscle spasms increases. Some of these conditions include:
– proper hydration and the necessary and appropriate levels of minerals in the body (together they are required to initiate contraction and relaxation)
– muscles properly trained and sufficiently developed for the exercise (untrained muscles are more likely to spasm)
– proper rest and recharge (tired muscles tend to spasm more often)
In addition, genetic factors must be taken into account. Some people experience muscle spasms earlier than others under the same conditions. Age also matters, older people are more prone to muscle spasms than younger ones. Injuries can also increase the risk of spasms, because the muscles that are in spasm surround the injured areas and protecting it.
What to do if you experiencing one?
Immediate stretching of the muscle, followed by massaging and keeping it warm. Never put cold pack on it.
How to prevent it?
Although there is no clear evidence, most scientific studies agree, that strategies to prevent spasms address five important areas:
1., Maintaining proper hydration – since all impulse activity in the muscles takes place in an aqueous medium, even the slightest amount of dehydration leads to a decrease in signal transmission, which increases the possibility of muscle spasm.
2., Proper intake of electrolyte minerals – sodium and potassium, which are responsible for transmitting signals to and from the muscles and calcium and magnesium, which are essential for muscle contraction and relaxation.
3., Energy replacement in the form of carbohydrates – carbohydrate stored in the muscles (glycogen, the primary source of energy for sports) a slight fluctuation in its level increases the chance of having a spasm.
4., 15-30 second regular passive stretches are useful; we don’t know the mechanism of the process, but it’s clear that the fibers are stretching, and thereby positively influence the activity of the spinal nerves.
5., A regular massage can help too, because it relaxes the muscles and helps cells get rid of metabolic products produced during sport.