What are spasms?

Spasms are uncontrolled, repetitive contractions of a muscle. Spasms may occur in any muscle in your body, such as those in your face, fingers or calves. Spasms can be brief or long lasting, uncomfortable or painful.

Muscle Problems Spotlight

A spasm may also be referred to as a muscle cramp. Leg cramps, sometimes called charley horses, are sudden and uncontrollable muscle contractions or spasms. They can occur with exercise or while sleeping and usually resolve just as quickly as they came. The pain from muscle cramps can be intense, but can often be relieved with gentle stretching and massage. Twitches are a mild form of spasms and may be short lived or permanent. Tetany is the term used to refer to prolonged muscle spasms.

Spasms have many causes, and their severity can vary substantially. Minor spasms may be the result of exercise or overuse of a muscle. Some spasms may be the result of a neurological condition or injury. Serious causes of spasms include kidney disease, seizure, and stroke.

Spasms and cramps can also be caused by neuromuscular disorders, such as multiple sclerosis or a spinal cord injury. Movement disorders called dystonias also lead to forceful contractions. Dystonias can be a complication of stroke. Certain medications can cause involuntary muscle contractions as well.

Muscle spams by themselves are rarely serious, but when combined with other symptoms, they may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition such as a stroke. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, are experiencing slurred speech and other serious symptoms, such as fainting or change in level of consciousness or lethargy; vomiting; severe headache; and sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body.

If your spasms persist or cause you concern, seek prompt medical care.


What other symptoms might occur with spasms?

Spasms may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the muscles may also involve other body systems.

Symptoms that may occur along with spasms

Spasms may accompany other symptoms affecting other body systems including:


What causes spasms?

There are many causes of spasms, and they vary substantially in severity. The location and duration of the spasm depends on the underlying cause. Minor and short-lived twitches may simply be the result of exercise or overuse of a muscle. Long-term spasms may be the result of a neurological condition, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease; a severe neurom... Read more about spasmscauses

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 30, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Bones, Joints and Muscles

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