Muscle Cramp vs Muscle Spasms:
What's the Difference?
Muscle spasms are short term contractions that can appear in any muscle in the body with extreme pain or without at all.
Your own body has a built-in protection system and will use a muscle spasm as a way to shield after an injury or disease. This system works in two ways, restrict movement of the injury site acting like a protective splint and guard against pain; a painful herniated disk, the muscles in the back will spasm to help prevent 'more' pain from happening. Damage to a muscle as in a large tear, complete rupture or a broke bone, the muscle spasms may be very strong and you will be unable to move area of your injury.
Irritated nerves, can result in spasms such as a facial spasm when a blood vessel is pressing against a facial nerve, this condition is called hemifacial spasm.
The term spasm is rather general so often we consider twitches, tics or jerks as muscle a spasm when they are not spasms at all.
Muscle cramps are painful spasms. Your blood is the transport mechanism for everything that's good inside you. It carries oxygen, nutrients, water and antibodies. This basic movement of blood into your muscles is also responsible for the chemical interaction for your muscles to move. When we exercising our blood vessels widen, our heart rate increases and the blood moves faster thru our veins. After, we stop exercising our blood slows, a build-up of toxins in blood vessels reduce the signal to the muscles to relax and we end up with a painful muscle cramp. The more intense or a change to your work out the more chance you have of developing a leg cramp (charley horse). This is the most common type of muscle spasm and normally people in good physical condition the leg spasms only lasts for a brief few moments.
Many areas of the body can have muscle cramps, common in the feet, hands, arms, chronic neck and back pain from frequent muscles spasms in the large muscle groups of the neck (trapezius muscle), and the rib cage/mid-back (latissimus dorsi muscle), and lower back. When they happen in the middle of the night waking you up from sleep, these are called nocturnal leg cramps and/or restless legs syndrome. Up to 60 percent of adults report that they have had nocturnal leg cramps. (source: American Family Physician)
If the cramping is happening often to the same muscle, the tissue around the cramp location may have been stained or damaged. Our natural process for repair to damaged tissue is to heal the quickest way = scar tissue and adhesions. Unfortunately, scar tissue may plague you for weeks, months and maybe even years, depending on your level of activity.
If you suffer from on going muscle spasms that cause daily stiffness and tightness to your muscles. As mentioned the build-up of scar tissue may be a secondary cause for more pain. The growth of scar tissue and adhesions can lie in any direction. Ultimately what causes stiffening in the muscles, entrapping a nerve, restricting movement, less elasticity, poor circulation, and flexibility.
Muscle spasm causes
The main causes are from the muscles spasms are tightening of the muscle, muscle stiffness, injury/disease, or muscle overuse/fatigue. But, they can also be triggered by alcoholism, poor circulation in the legs, arthritic changes in the spine, spinal cord injury, hormone issues, underactive thyroid (Hypothyroidism), low red blood cell count (diabetes, anemia), nerve dysfunction, kidney failure, a large number medications have muscle spasm side effects, low levels of minerals (potassium or calcium), menstruation or pregnancy. Diseases or the nervous system; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis or cardiovascular disease, can be related with muscle spasm.
You should speak to your doctor if you are having muscle spasms often, as it could be a sign of a medical problem that requires treatments.
Muscle cramp signs and symptoms
The signs and symptoms of a muscle cramp are the quick onset of sharp to intense pain as the muscle contracts and you may feel a bulging muscle in the area of the cramp. The pain many last for a few seconds to a several minutes. If the cramp has been long lasting and quite painful the area in the muscle you may be sore and tender in the muscle for a few days.
Treatment - What You Can Do!
Most muscles cramps are very short lived and can easily be relieved with a few simple remedies. First, when the muscle cramp happens stop your activity and try gentle stretching and massaging the muscle.
- Leg cramps; Hamstring muscle cramp (back of your thigh), gently up a small amount of your weight on the leg with the cramp and bending your knee slightly, or sit or lie down with you leg out straight and pull the top of the foot toward your head. Quadricep muscle cramp (front of the thigh) hold onto a chair to steady yourself and pull your foot back toward your buttock. Calf muscle cramp, lean forward against a wall with one leg in front of the other. Straighten your back leg and press your heel into the floor. (Your front knee is bent).
- Hand cramps; opening and closing your hands either by themselves or with some sort of resistance device like a grip strengthener or stress ball.
- Arm cramps; Triceps stretch (Back of your arm). Bring one of your elbows across your body, towards the opposite shoulder. Use your other hand to bring your elbow closer to your shoulder. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds, then switch sides. Alternate method: raise your arm over your head and bend your elbow all the way so your hand is behind your neck. Use your other arm to stabilize your elbow. Hold for 10-20 seconds, then switch sides. You should feel either of these stretches in the back of your arm. Bicep stretch (front of your upper arm), lift both arms out to your side at shoulder height, keeping shoulders even with each other. Rotate your hands/wrists so they are facing behind you.
- Shoulder/Upper back cramps; Trapezius muscle stretch, do super shoulder shrugs, pulling your shoulders all the way to your ears, hold for a few seconds and let them fall to a relaxed position. Rolling your shoulders in both directions. Side to side stretch, sitting up straight, with your feet flat and shoulders back, grab onto the bottom of your chair with your right hand. Then slowly tilt your head sideways, bringing your left ear toward your left shoulder until you feel a gentle stretch along the right side of your neck and shoulder. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds; repeat on the opposite side.
Cold Compression Therapy
Second, if the area remains sore and painful. Cold therapy works to relieve the pain in a natural way. For years, doctors, trainers, and other medical professionals have recommended RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) to treat the pain and swelling of fresh injuries, chronic pain, and after any re-injury.
Although RICE can help to treat these symptoms, ice and freezer gel packs reach temperatures so low they can cause cryoburn, an ice burn on your skin. The problem is, up until now there hasn't been another option to treat painful conditions and injuries, so ice and freezer gel packs have been the only choice.
Fortunately, you no longer have to settle for these ice cold methods that are uncomfortably cold against your skin, provide short term relief, cause ice burns, and numb your skin and underlying tissue beyond feeling so you don't even notice the ice burn until it's too late. The Freezie Wrap® allows you to treat your muscle pain in an effective and convenient way. Cold Compression Therapy works by stopping and slowing nerve and cell function in the injured area and reducing swelling that can block blood vessels.
This is important because once blood vessels are blocked or damaged, they can no longer carry oxygenated blood through the tissue and tissue cells begin to break-down. Without cold compression therapy cellular break-down and tissue damage continues as the cells do not get the oxygen they need to survive. By limiting the amount of damage done to your muscle, you also limit the amount of healing that needs to occur. This is a very important step to heal muscle injuries faster and with less pain!
Questions about Muscle Spasms?
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Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy
Third, treatment option for muscle spasms, increasing blood flow to get rid of toxins, cellular waste, and cleaning the area.
Using Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy (BFST®), will prepare your muscles for strengthening exercises. BFST® increases the amount of blood that flows naturally to your soft tissue to nourish your tendons, ligaments and muscles, improving elasticity and increase your range of motion and prevent re-injury. Blood brings new life to your damaged cells by delivering healing nutrients and oxygen that are important to heal and strengthen your tissue.
Don't settle for minimal treatments when the best products are ready and waiting for you! If you want to get back to your daily activities with fast, effective, and safe home therapy treatment, speak to your doctor or therapist about incorporating the Freezie Wrap® and Inferno Wrap® into your training, recovery, and every day maintenance.
Preventing reoccurring muscle spasms you can is to stay hydrated. Drinking water or other healthy drinks throughout the normal course of a day or when working will make the muscles less likely to cramp. Good nutrition is also important, and low levels of potassium, calcium and sodium makes muscles more likely to spasm - eat a banana, which is rich in electrolytes, an hour prior to working out.
Unfortunately, scar tissue may plague you for weeks, months and maybe even years, depending on your level of activity and the amount of conservative treatments you have done during your rehabilitation. Scar tissue is a major problem, especially when it comes to re-injury of your muscles. When dealing with scar tissue it is always important to:
- listen well to your physician and if conservative treatments are recommended and remember to stick to your (daily) treatment plan using these therapies
- frequent use of the Freezie Wrap® will help reduce the swelling very quickly. Much of the pain you feel will be from the swelling, and you will be surprised how fast the pain drops off once the swelling is down.
- the Inferno Wrap® is a safe, electromagnetic energy device that will help reduce scar tissue and increase blood flow to the area (thereby accelerating the body's own healing process).
- when applied before stretching, the Inferno Wrap® will help flush the area with fresh blood. This will help improve your range of motion and prevent re-injury.
Prevention and Promotion of Lifelong Health
If you want to avoid re-injury, or manage pain and increase circulation for lifelong health benefits. A Freezie Wrap® and Inferno Wrap®, will provide the results you are looking for.
Why spend time in pain, off from work, and missing out on your active lifestyle when you can be proactive about your injury and the health of your body? Talk to your doctor about incorporating a regular routine of using a Freezie Wrap® and Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy™ into your everyday health regimen.
Learn More About SUPERIOR Muscle Spasm Treatments
Learn more about how the Shoulder Freezie Wrap® is designed to be the most effective cold compression wrap on the market today.
Learn more about how the Shoulder Inferno Wrap® helps with the healing process.
Muscle Injury Facts:
There are approximately 639 muscles in the human body
Muscle aches and pains are common and can involve more than one muscle
Muscle pain also can involve ligaments, tendons, and fascia, the soft tissues that connect muscles, bones, and organs
Oral medications can mask the pain but do not aid in the healing of a muscle injury. Anti-inflammatories and pain killers can cause muscle related injuries to worsen
Muscle pain also can be a sign of conditions affecting your whole body, like some infections and disorders that affect connective tissues throughout the body
Most common cause of muscle aches & pains:
- Injury or trauma including sprains and strains
- Overuse: using a muscle too much, too soon, too often
- Tension or stress