Updated: Dec 26, 2022
Is a muscle spasm the cause of an injury or an effect of one? What do you think?
Let's talk about it. One day you lean over quickly to tie your shoe and suddenly are overcome by severe pain and can't move a muscle. You can barley stand up and you "pulled your back out." We hear this story in some form almost every day. While it's probably the furthest thing form your mind at the time, the muscle spasm is often an EFFECT of an injury, not the actual cause.
What typically happens is that there was a weak point somewhere along the spine and the stress from that particular movement reached a breaking point. The joint "fails" and causes some degree of injury to you. Remember, the body is extremely intelligent and recognizes this injury immediately. It sends signals to the surrounding muscles to tighten up, restrict movement, and brace that area so no further damage is done. This protective mechanism is often painful but necessary. Regular spinal adjustments from trained and skilled chiropractors identify weak joints along the spine to prevent these types of injuries. As chiropractors, we can assess the spine, correct misalignments, and strengthen those weak spots to pinpoint potential problems areas!
So what does cause a muscles spasm? Well, like in the case above, a misaligned bone in your spine can predispose you to frequent muscle spasms. But there are also many other causes such as vitamin and mineral deficiency, dehydration, stress, overstretching a muscles, physical trauma, and certain neurological disorders.
How to relieve a muscle spasm:
Time. Time is really the only thing that can truly relieve a muscle in spasm. It typically takes 3 or 4 days but there are things you can do you to help you manage in the meantime!
Ice is key here especially on day one and two because many assume that you put heat on a muscle spasm to "loosen it up" but that's not exactly true. Ice is used when there is a muscle spasm because it usually means the injury is acute (recent) and highly inflamed. Ice helps lower the inflammation by constricting blood vessels where as heat dilates blood vessels and increased inflammation. By day three and four it usually okay to add some heat into the mix.
Water. Drink lots of water to help rehydrate your muscles and replenish those joints! When a muscle is in spasm there are ligaments, tendons and discs between the bones that also feel that stress. When your body is in healing mode for an extended period of time it takes resources from anywhere it can get it. Drink lots of water to aid in the healing process and to replenish hydrations you might have lost.
Rest. The key here is to avoid aggravating activities but to also avoid sitting in one place for too long. When a muscle spasm is present, it doesn't take a lot to set it off. Turning, bending, and twisting are sure fire ways to make it worse, so avoid whenever possible. Also sitting on the couch or standing for too long (over an hour) at one time can also slow down the healing time and aggravate your injury. Find a comfortable position and relax for 30 minutes and then slowly get up and walk around for a few minutes and repeat the process.
Myofascial release, electric muscle stimulation, cupping, trigger point therapy, massage, acupuncture, and isolated, slow controlled stretching are also extremely helpful in reducing the amount of time it takes for this muscle spasm to calm down. If you can't make it into the office, use your fingers, a or a tennis ball and place gentle but firm pressure in the area that feels most tight. Sink into it and slowly breath help release the muscle spasm. Of course, we are always here to help! Remember that pain has a purpose and is a way your body is trying to communicate with you! Listen to it!
When muscle spasms are presents, an adjustment might not be the most relaxing adjustment ever but, it is necessary! Sometimes, you can feel immediate relief. We may use different techniques and different amount of force depending on each individual. The chiropractic adjustment indirectly helps reduce muscle spams by correcting spinal fixations and restoring healing potential to the muscles.
From the desk of Dr. Lisette Miller Kondrad. Dr. Miller is a licensed Chiropractic Physician and Board Certified Acupuncture Provider who has been in clinical practice for 7 years. She has helped hundreds of patients via Chiropractic care and Acupuncture. Click here to contact Clark Road Chiropractic Center with any questions or to schedule your appointment!