Muscle spasm is a painful involuntary contraction of part or all of one or more muscles.
Spasms in the back muscles can follow either direct or potential trauma to the muscle involved, or as a protective response to strain or damage to an underlying segment of the spine.
Spasms can also occur in the muscles of the neck, often known as Torticollis or Wry neck, whereby the head is held in a twisted position to one side. Movement is very limited and it is often painful. Onset can be quite sudden, with people often waking up with it, but it usually improves within a couple days but may take up to a week to resolve completely. The tendency to suffer from this condition can run in families, but it may be triggered by poor posture, such as at sitting badly at a computer, or not having proper pillow support in bed. Also being in a cold draught or carrying a heavy load in one hand can cause it.
Cramps are a type of muscle spasm, often affecting the legs, that can have several causes such as:
- Poor circulation in the legs
- Overexertion of the muscles while exercising
- Insufficient stretching before exercise
- Exercising in the heat
- Muscle fatigue
- Electrolyte imbalance
- Malfunctioning nerves, which could be caused by a problem such as a spinal cord injury or pinched nerve in the neck or back
- A side effect of medication
If the spasms are severe, don’t resolve with simple stretching and massage, keep recurring or last a long time, it is advisable to seek professional advice.
An osteopath will examine the patient to establish the cause of the spasm and where appropriate, a treatment plan will be devised to help alleviate the symptoms and improve the function of the area.
Very occasionally, more serious muscle spasms known as DYSTONIA occur as the result of a neurological problem that will require more specialised management.