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If you are a physically active person, the chances are that you have experienced a muscle spasm at least once in your life. Muscle spasms can be mildly irritating or severely painful. In order to avoid these spasms, you must know what causes them.
Muscle spasms, or charley horses, are basically a contraction of the muscle. This contraction happens without your control, and the muscle will not relax on its own. All muscle groups in the body are prone to muscle spasms.
One of the most common causes of muscle spasms is injury. When you injure a muscle, inflammation may result. This inflammation irritates the area around the muscle, causing it to contract. Proper lifting procedures and always warming up with stretching exercises before working out can lessen the likelihood of developing muscle spasms from injury.
Dehydration may also lead to muscle spasms. When the body is dehydrated, activities such as sports are more likely to cause muscle spasms. You should always make sure to drink plenty of water, especially if you will be participating in any physically demanding activities.
Muscle spasms may occur when you have a mineral deficiency in your body. This is especially true with calcium or potassium deficiencies. If you begin to experience muscle spasms that drinking water alone does not alleviate, try drinking sports drinks to replenish your mineral levels.
Nerve irritation is another common cause of muscle spasms. A herniated disk in the back is one of the better known examples of this nerve irritation. When the nerve is irritated, the muscle it is attached to can spasm.
Finally, stress can cause muscle spasms. Stress-related muscle spasms are most common in the upper back or neck. If you have not been physically active and have no existing back problems, stress may be the culprit for muscle spasms in your neck.
Many muscle spasms are fairly benign. You can ease these muscle spasms by resting the affected muscle. Massage may also ease your discomfort. You can also alternate heat and ice on the affected muscle and take over-the-counter pain relievers that have anti-inflammatory properties, such as ibuprofen.
However, if you can not ease the pain of a muscle spasm by any of these methods or if the pain is extremely bad, persistent, or recurring, you should see your doctor. Weakness from a muscle spasm is also a cause for a call to your doctor. He can examine you closely to determine the cause of your muscle spasms. He may order a Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI, test to pinpoint the exact location of your problem if the muscle spasms are a result of nerve irritation.
Your doctor will prescribe the proper treatment for your particular case. This treatment may include extended rest and medication, sometimes prescription strength pain relievers. In more severe cases of muscle spasm, physical therapy may be the proper treatment. Do not deviate from your doctor's instructions, as he is the best person to advise you about any health problem you have, including muscle spasms.