Muscle Spasms - Symptoms

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What are the symptoms and signs of muscle spasms?

The symptoms of muscle spasm depend upon the muscle involved and the circumstances leading up to the spasm.

Skeletal muscle spasm usually involves muscles that are being asked to do excessive work. There is acute onset of pain as the muscle contracts. A bulging muscle may be seen or felt underneath the skin where the muscle is located. Most often, the spasm resolves spontaneously after a few seconds though it may last many minutes or longer. Usually, the patient will feel the need to stretch the muscle involved, thus relieving the spasm and resolving the episode. With heat cramps, the muscle spasm may occur after the activity is completed.

A muscle fasciculation or twitch may last just a few seconds or may be a recurrent event. Usually, it's just a momentary repetitive contraction of just a few muscle fibers of a larger muscle in a localized area served by one nerve fiber. This often involves the eyelid, calf, thigh, or thumb. The fasciculations often come and go and may be related to stress or anxiety. Ingestion of stimulants like caffeine and pseudoephedrine found in over-the-counter cold medications may also cause the twitch. Medications such as albuterol (Ventolin, Proventil, AccuNeb, VoSpire, ProAir) used for the treatment of asthma and medications used to treat attention deficit disorder may be associated with twitching. These twitches are considered benign fasciculation.

However, muscle twitching may also be associated with neurologic disorders such as muscular dystrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and myopathy (a primary muscle illness). With these diagnoses, associated symptoms include weakness, muscle wasting with loss of muscle size, and change in sensation.

Smooth muscle spasm will cause colicky pain that comes and goes. The symptoms will depend upon the organ involved.

Return to Muscle Spasms

See what others are saying

Comment from: Judith, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: December 17

My doctor tells me that I am suffering from knee spasms. Sometimes, when squatting to weed the garden or clean the floor, I suddenly get an intense pain in my knee which makes me scream for about 2 seconds; then I manage to move my knee slightly, and the pain disappears. No pain, no stiffness, no inflammation, nothing; until the next time. It seems to be happening in the outer edge of my knee where 2 hard structures meet (ligaments?). It feels to me as though something is dislocated for a couple of seconds.

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Comment from: Patty, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: January 08

Two weeks ago my lower back had bad muscle spasm-when I got up or sat down on the chair and also lay on bed, my back had spasm when I moved in bed. It was really hurting when I moved. Now it gets better every day. Other symptom were, last week I reached down the washing machine to pick some lint and my rib popped. Two days later, my rib has muscle spasm and hurts. It gets better every day but my rib still is sore.

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