Muscle Spasms

What are the symptoms and signs of muscle spasms?

The symptoms of muscle spasm depend upon the muscle involved and the circumstances leading up to the spasm.

Skeletal muscle spasm usually involves muscles that are being asked to do excessive work. There is acute onset of pain as the muscle contracts. A bulging, tight muscle may be seen or felt underneath the skin where the muscle is located. Most often, the spasm resolves spontaneously after a few seconds though it may last many minutes or longer. Usually, those affected will feel the need to stretch the muscle involved, thus relieving the spasm and resolving the episode. With heat cramps, the muscle spasm may occur after the activity is completed.

A muscle fasciculation or twitch may last just a few seconds or may be a recurrent event. Usually, it's just a momentary repetitive contraction of just a few muscle fibers of a larger muscle in a localized area served by one nerve fiber. This often involves the eyelid, calf, thigh, or thumb. The fasciculations often come and go and may be related to stress or anxiety. Ingestion of stimulants like caffeine and pseudoephedrine found in over-the-counter cold medications may also cause the twitch. Medications such as albuterol (Ventolin, Proventil, AccuNeb, VoSpire, ProAir) used for the treatment of asthma and medications used to treat attention deficit disorder (Adderall) may be associated with twitching. These twitches are considered harmless and are referred to as benign fasciculations.

However, muscle twitching may also be associated with neurologic disorders such as muscular dystrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and myopathy (a primary muscle illness). With these diseases, associated symptoms include weakness, muscle wasting with loss of muscle size, and change in sensation.

Smooth muscle spasm will cause colicky pain that comes and goes. The symptoms will depend upon the organ involved.

Reviewed on 7/14/2014
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