Muscle Spasm or Cramp

General or Other | Rheumatology | Muscle Spasm or Cramp (Symptom)


A muscle spasm or muscle cramp is an involuntary contraction of a muscle. Muscles spasms occur suddenly, usually resolved quickly, and are often painful. A muscle spasm is different from a muscle contraction. A muscle contraction is a uncontrolled movement of a small segment of a muscle.

Muscles are complex structures that cause movement in the body. There are three types of muscles in the body: heart pumps blood to the muscles (heart muscle). Skeletal muscle moves the outer parts of the body, like arms and legs and neck, back and trunk. Smooth muscle moves portions of hollow structures within the body. Some examples are the muscles that line the esophagus, stomach and intestine, the large muscles lining the arteries and muscles of the uterus.


Spasms can occur when a muscle is overused and tired, especially if it stretches too much, or has been conducted in the same position for an extended period of time.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Prevention is the answer to most skeletal muscle spasms. Since they are often associated with dehydration and electrolyte disturbances, it is important to keep the body well hydrated.

When a skeletal muscle go into spasm, the initial treatment is to gently stretch the muscle back to length to break the spasm cycle and resolve the acute situation. Further treatment will depend upon the underlying cause of the muscle spasms and may consist in medications for short-term pain relief, including anti-inflammatories (ibuprofen), narcotics, and muscle relaxants.