You feel a muscle suddenly contract, causing temporary pain or discomfort. Are you experiencing muscle twitching or a spasm? While both twitches and spasms result in the involuntary contraction of muscle tissue, they have different causes and manifestations.
Muscle Twitches: Causes and Treatment
Muscle twitching, otherwise known as fasciculation, is characterized by the repeated contraction of a single muscle and is usually visible through the skin. The sensation may be uncomfortable or annoying but is typically not as painful as a muscle spasm. Twitches most commonly occur in the muscles of the eyelids or limbs, although they can occur elsewhere in the body as well.
Muscle twitches typically occur when nerve impulses fire erratically, but there are many different reasons this may happen, and it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause. Possible reasons for twitching include:
• Rigorous exercise
• Lack of sleep
• Use of caffeine, nicotine, or other stimulant drugs
Less commonly, muscle twitching may be a sign of a serious problem, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), nerve damage, or muscular dystrophy. However, if you experience infrequent muscle twitching, it is most likely harmless. In fact, over 90% of people will experience benign muscle twitching at some point in their life. This benign muscle twitching should go away without medical treatment, but if you experience twitching that lasts for more than a week, see your doctor.
Muscle Spasms: Causes and Treatment
While twitches affect a single muscle, muscle spasms can cause a group of muscles to suddenly contract for a sustained period of time, causing acute pain, stiffness, and the feeling that the affected muscles are hardening or bulging. Muscle spasms actually occur as a protective response; they typically happen when a muscle is fatigued, and by contracting and limiting motion, the spasm protects the muscle from further injury.
Causes of muscle spasms may include:
• Rigorous exercise
• Beginning a new type of exercise
• An imbalance of calcium or magnesium
• Excessive alcohol consumption
• Certain medications
Although most of us will experience muscle spasms at some points in our lives, you can help reduce your risk of experiencing this painful condition by staying well hydrated, stretching, and gradually warming up before heavy exercise. If you have recently had a muscle spasm, stretching and massaging the affected area can help. You can also try hot and cold therapy; the Northwest Medical Center recommends applying an ice pack to the affected area for up to 20 minutes at a time several times a day for the first 72 hours after the spasm. This will help slow nerve impulses to the affected muscles. After three days, you can begin using heat packs or warm baths to loosen up the muscles and improve blood flow to the affected area.
Carisoprodol Generic Muscle Spasm Drug
Muscle spasms usually do not require medical attention, but if you experience a particularly painful or long-lasting spasm, or if you experience spasms on a regular basis, you may need to see your doctor. Your doctor may prescribe a muscle relaxant, such as carisoprodol, or recommend an at-home therapy you can use to help treat the spasms.