What Causes Muscle Spasms?

There are various reasons that spasms might occur, and it's not just because you've done too much exercise. In this article, we'll tell you about the main causes.
What Causes Muscle Spasms?

Last update: 01 February, 2021

We’ve all suffered from muscle spasms at some point. However, despite this, many people don’t really know why or what causes muscle spasms.

Spasms are a common affliction, and we normally associate them with simply overexerting ourselves momentarily. However, this isn’t always the case. So, in this article, we want to tell you about the main causes and what you can do to prevent spasms in the future.

What are muscle spasms?

As the relevant literature explains, muscle spasms occur when a muscle contracts tightly and isn’t able to relax. In other words, it finds itself in a state of constant contraction.

Firstly, this is painful, particularly when making certain movements but also when resting. As a result, muscle spasms can limit your movement for a while.

When resting, the muscle is perfectly capable to stretch or contract as normal. However, when a spasm occurs, the muscle isn’t able to contract further and won’t allow itself to relax. As a result, this can significantly reduce your range of movement.

Possible causes of muscle spasms

A man receiving treatment for muscle spasms.

There’s a range of different issues that can cause muscle spasms. Below, we’ve listed some of the most common:

Too much physical exercise

As most people already know, the main reason that you might suffer a muscle spasm is overexertion. This might be because you’ve suddenly started exercise after a long period away from your chosen sport, or it might be because you’ve ramped up the intensity of your fitness routine too quickly.

As a result, if you don’t get much exercise, simply trying to carry all your groceries up to a fourth-floor apartment could be enough. Regardless of the situation, you’re asking your muscles to do something that they’ve not been used to. Thus, their defense mechanism is to contract.

Lastly, during sport and exercise, it’s worth pointing out that a physical blow can also cause muscle spasms.

Cold temperatures

You’ve all heard about the importance of warming up to prevent injury, but the term “warming up” also refers to the temperatures.

When your muscles are cold, they’ll tend to contract. Therefore, if you try to demand too much of them in low temperatures, you’re running something of a risk.

So, when it’s cold outside, it’s even more important to warm up. Before you do any exercise in the cold, make sure you get the blood flowing and get some heat to those muscles.

Poor diet

Another cause of muscle spasms is poor diet. In order for muscles to contract and stretch properly, muscles need certain substances, and as a result, making sure you get the right nutrients in your diet can be very important.

As well as getting all the right nutrients, you also need to make sure that you’re well hydrated. Staying hydrated is always important, but even more so if you do a lot of exercise. Make sure you drink plenty of water before, during, and after any sport or physical exercise.

Stress and other causes

Day-to-day stress can also be another cause of muscle spasms. In general, if we’re constantly busy, worried, or upset, we’re also physically tense. And this tension can result in muscle spasms.

This means that it’s really important to find time in the day to relax, whether this means meditating or simply going for a walk. Whatever you need to do to unwind.

Poor posture

A man at work suffering from muscle spasms.

Sitting awkwardly for a long time is another big cause of muscle spasms. If you work in front of a computer for many hours, it’s quite likely that you don’t even move your neck or shoulders for a long time. Likewise, if you’re on the sofa for a long time, your back will probably be curved the whole time.

Any poor posture can lead to muscle spasms, it doesn’t matter how you’re sitting or lying. If you’re not moving, you’re running the risk of muscle spasms.

Muscle spasms can be prevented

Despite this long list of causes, it’s possible to prevent muscle spasms. But to do it, you need to be conscious of your exercise routine, increasing intensity gradually, and making sure that you warm up properly before any session. You also need to eat well, keep an eye on your posture, and monitor your stress levels.

If you can do all this, you’re unlikely to have problems with muscle spasms. But if you can’t, as researchers at the Technical University of Ambato explain, you can expect future discomfort and probably a fair amount of treatment and therapy to alleviate the problem.

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  • Serratrice. Contracturas musculares. EMC – Kinesiterapia – Medicina Física. Vol. 32, Issue 2, Pp. 1-11 (2011)
  • Moreno, M. Masaquiza y L. Cumandá. Maniobras básicas del masaje vs masaje con movimiento activo en contracturas musculares de los futbolistas de 20 a 35 años de la Liga Deportiva Parroquial Picaihua. Trabajo de investigación para la Universidad Técnica de Ambato (2015)
  • Cerezo. Programa de ejercicios terapéuticos de estiramiento muscular lumbar para algias por contractura muscular. Tesis para la Universidad de Guayaquil (2015)