Muscle Spasm

Muscle Cramp, Muscle Contraction

What is muscle spasm?

A muscle spasm is the uncontrollable cramp (contraction) of one or more muscles. Muscle cramps happen occasionally to almost everyone. The contractions may have no identifiable cause. Muscle spasms may be the result of unusual exercise, especially in the setting of dehydration (sweating), or a prolonged period of sitting, standing or lying in an uncomfortable position.

How is it diagnosed?

History: The individual will complain of violent contractions of a muscle that may worsen with movement. Sudden pain accompanies the contractions and they may come and go.

Physical exam: The affected muscles will be visibly contracted and feel hard and tense. The individual may favor the muscle and lean to one side, show decreased movement in the affected area, and show discomfort with certain movements.

Tests: Blood tests (electrolytes) may be indicated if cramps are recurrent.

How is muscle spasm treated?

Warm moist heat or ice packs may be applied to the area. Analgesics and muscle relaxants may be prescribed by mouth. Massage and gradual stretching of the muscle can be helpful. The individual may be counseled to warm up muscles before exercising and to ensure adequate fluid intake before and during exercise.


Soma (Carisoprodol), Valium (Diazepam), Skelaxin

What might complicate it?

Muscle tearing or other injury will complicate the treatment of cramps.

Predicted outcome

In most cases, the muscle will recover with time. Neurological injury can result in recurrent or persistent spasms such as those present in paraplegics or quadriplegics.


Muscle tears or strain, heat exhaustion, hardening of the arteries (claudication), and rare metabolic diseases of the muscle are other possibilities.

Appropriate specialists

Orthopedist and physiatrist.

Last updated 6 August 2015


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