Muscle spasms or muscle cramps can be anywhere from annoying to downright painful. There are many causes of muscle spasms and in order to rid yourself of them, you have to ask “Why?”
They can be caused by dehydration, electrolyte or other mineral imbalances, circulation issues, nerve interference (due to localized swelling or compression), medication side effects, poor nutrition, trauma, overuse, or certain diseases.
One of the biggest causes is dehydration. If you’re drinking sufficient quantities of water and you are still thirsty or having spasms, it could be that you are deficient in minerals, including electrolytes (excess thirst can also indicate diabetes, but that is another conversation). Check also to be sure you aren’t consuming things that are diuretic in action, such as coffee, which can also be a contributor to dehydration and loss of minerals.
Diuretics, blood pressure lowering and cholesterol medications can cause muscle weakness which can lead to muscle spasms. Diseases such as ALS, Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis can have muscle spasms as part of that condition. Having muscle spasms does not necessarily mean that you have these diseases.
Nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, sodium and calcium if too low in the body can contribute to muscle spasms. So can a lack of protein. If you feel your diet should be sufficient, you may be having issues with digesting and assimilating your nutrients. If you are on acid-reducing medications, chance are, you’re not digesting properly.
Remedying the above situations can help. If not, try acupuncture. Acupuncture triggers the release of endorphins, which are the natural painkillers made by the body. They help reduce pain and inflammation and reduces swelling as well as spasms, and also promote relaxation and response to stress (do you have stress-related tight shoulders/traps?). Several studies such as one published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found acupuncture effective in reducing pain and spasms in the neck and surrounding areas. In the Journal of Pain Research Acupuncture was effective in reducing pain and muscle spasms in patients with low back pain, Fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis. A systematic review published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research found acupuncture was effective in reducing pain and spasms and improving physical function in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee.
Acupuncture can also be effective in supporting healthy digestion and treating trauma, sprain/strain, or overuse issues that may have led to the muscle spasms.
Many herbs can also help with muscle spasms or the conditions that led to muscle spasms. Diet can as well. A diet rich in green leafy veggies, nuts and seeds, fruits high in vitamin C and potassium, whole grains that are rich in B vitamins and magnesium, and quality protein. If you are suffering from pain and/or muscle spasms there is hope.
©2023 Holly A. Carling, O.M.D., L.Ac., Ph.D.