Muscle spasms can be extremely painful and might negatively affect a patient’s lifestyle. There are many causes of spasms, and traditional medical treatments include prescriptions, which might have side-effects and potential addiction issues. Chiropractic care can be a very beneficial alternative for those who wish to address the root cause of the spasms and help resolve and prevent future problems, something that traditional medical treatments often do not address. Muscle cramps or spasms are contractions that are involuntary and often painful.1 There are some muscles that control our posture. If there is a “forceful and sustained” contraction, that is a spasm that feels like a cramp. They can last seconds to over an hour, and they can recur. Some spasms are consistent while others occur randomly or are triggered by certain regular movements and actions performed by the patient.2 Spasms and cramps could be caused by injury. For example, muscles might try to stabilize the area around a broken bone. They can also be caused by certain activities, such as muscle fatigue, which often happen during sports, extended sitting, or awkward positions. Some cramps and spasms could occur at night and interfere with sleep. Other causes of these painful muscle contractions include dehydration, bodily fluid issues, and low blood calcium, magnesium, or potassium. Muscle cramps and spasms are very often and may happen to everyone at any time.3
Traditional Treatments for Spasms
Ideally, spasms should be prevented. Therefore, avoiding dehydration and disturbances in electrolytes are helpful. People should remember to warm up and stretch before any vigorous activities and sports. This will both minimize or prevent occurrences of muscle spasms while also improving the patient’s performance in the physical activity. If a spasm occurs, it is important to “stretch the muscle back to length to break the spasm cycle and resolve the acute situation”. Strained and sprained muscles are typically treated with anti-inflammatory medications, prescription narcotics, and muscle relaxants. Doctors may also prescribe anti-Parkinsonian drugs, seizure-control drugs, and Botox (Botulinum toxin type A).4 All medications can have side effects, and some could lead to addiction. For these reasons, natural treatment options should be explored and pursued before trying the more serious options.
Chiropractors use a pill-free approach to dealing with muscle spasms. Typical treatments that chiropractors employ include joint manipulation, soft tissue manipulation, and associated therapies. Joint manipulation restores normal range of motion and reduces pain. Soft tissue manipulation includes stretching and massage therapy in order to provide relief and decrease scar tissue. Associated therapies include hot/cold treatments, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation. They also prevent swelling and scarring. Chiropractors will also recommend exercises and strength training, as well as nutritional supplementation.5 Chiropractors often deal with patients who feel “tight”, with “constant aches and pains in the back of the neck, lower back, and hips”. Many patients have tender “trigger points” which feel sensitive when pressed. “A healthy spinal column- nerve system is a necessary foundation for proper muscle function.”6 Of course, the ultimate purpose of seeking chiropractic care for muscle spasms and cramps is not only pain relief, but addressing the underlying causes of the problem and preventing future issues.
Massage and Yoga for Spasms
Massage and yoga are two other natural and alternative treatment options for muscle spasms. Muscle spasms should relax in response to pressure applied by the massage therapist. If the muscle does not relax, inflammation might be present. Muscle spasms that are left untreated could cause the development of a knot within the muscle, which then would become a trigger point. Trigger point therapy and massage, as well as taking a hot shower or bath, are a few methods that could work together to relieve the spasms.7 There are also a variety of yoga positions for different types of spasms that the patient can try for relief. In palm tree pose, the patient should stand on their toes with their fingers interlocked and their hands parallel and reaching towards the sky. This is a full body stretch that should be held for a few seconds and repeated. Lateral angular pose has the patient positioned closer to the ground, with one knee bent with the foot facing out while the other leg is stretching with the foot facing forward. The latter arm should also be stretched out, following the diagonal line created by the leg. Cobbler, or butterfly, pose is done in the sitting position. The patient must sit with their knees out to the sides while the bottoms of the feet touch. The patient should try to get their knees to touch the floor and try the position sitting straight and leaning their head and torso forward, over their legs. These are just a few examples of poses meant to stretch different areas of the body, depending on where the muscle spasms are. These stretches could also be recommended by the patient’s chiropractor for at-home maintenance of their health.8