Muscle spasms are forceful contractions of the muscle fibers that happen without warning. They are a natural, protective response to inflammation, injury, or damage to the muscles themselves or the nerves that serve them.

Muscle spasms often occur when a muscle is overstretched, overused, held in the same position for a prolonged period of time, or as the result of an injury. They are one of the most common and painful causes of back, neck and shoulder pain, but they can also occur in smaller muscles, such as those in the hand.

Many things can trigger a muscle cramp, including:

  • Muscle fatigue
  • Overexertion, especially in hot weather
  • Dehydration and depletion of electrolytes
  • Magnesium and/or potassium deficiency
  • Poor circulation in the legs
  • Side effects from certain medications
  • Pinched nerve in the neck or back

Neurologic disorders, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injury

The primary symptoms of a muscle spasm are pain and severe muscle tightening, accompanied by repetitive muscle contractions or twitching that lasts from a few seconds to several minutes. The symptoms usually ease up after gentle stretching and a period of rest.

If the muscle spasms are severe, last a long time, or keep recurring, visit your physician at Lancaster Orthopedic Group for an evaluation. He or she can examine you to detect underlying medical issues and determine whether muscle or nerve abnormalities may be causing the symptoms.