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How are muscle spasms treated?

Prevention is the key to most skeletal muscle spasm episodes. Since they are often associated with dehydration and electrolyte disturbances, it is important to keep the body well hydrated. If the fluid loss is due to an illness with fever or vomiting and diarrhea, controlling the symptoms will help limit fluid loss and prevent spasms. Similarly, for those who work or exercise in a hot environment, drinking enough fluids to keep hydrated is very important.

Muscles should also be prepared for the activity that they are expected to do. Just as athletes stretch and warm up before the game, nonathletes should warm up before heavy labor, including jobs like raking, mowing, and shoveling snow.

Should 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. For muscles that have been damaged or strained, medications may be required for short-term pain relief, including anti-inflammatories (ibuprofen [Advil]), narcotics, and muscle relaxants.

The treatment of smooth muscle spasm also depends upon the underlying cause. Often, pain control will occur simultaneously with the care provider's efforts to make the diagnosis.

There is no one effective treatment for the dystonias. Medication may used to try to restore balance to the brain's neurotransmitters. The decision as to which medication to use depends upon the patient's presentation. It may take trial and error to find the right medication in the right dose to control symptoms.

  • Anti-Parkinsonism drugs, like trihexyphenidyl HCl (Artane) and benztropine mesylate (Cogentin), decrease acetylcholine levels.
  • Muscle relaxants like diazepam (Valium) and baclofen (Lioresal) affect GABA receptors.
  • Levodopa (Sinemet) and reserpine (Harmonyl) affect dopamine levels.
  • Carbamazepine (Tegretol), a seizure-control drug, may be useful in some patients.
  • Botulinum toxin type A (Botox) may be injected into a specific muscle to paralyze it and relieve the muscle spasm. This was initially used for blepharospasms but is now able to be used where other muscles are involved.

Return to Muscle Spasms

See what others are saying

Comment from: flower lady, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: May 03

Magnesium 500 mg/day keeps cramps from occurring. Muscle spasms used to happen while driving, in leg, toes, calf, and thigh to the point that I'd have to pull off road and walk around the car several times. They occurred in both legs at night for many years as my job required a lot of standing. I also purchased Hyland's leg cramp tablets at Walmart. They take cramps away if one should occur. It's rare now since I take magnesium regularly. It is called nature's tranquilizer.

Was this comment helpful?Yes
Comment from: retired senior, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: December 05

I became immune to 50 mg of nortriptyline after years. I take Lyrica now and it helps with the muscle spasms. The nortriptyline gave me too many cavities due to dry mouth. Biotene mouthwash only lasts an hour. I am also getting weaned off tizanidine 4 mg because of the dry mouth now. I have back issues and an MRI done but they honestly don't know if it is causing the spasms. No surgery was suggested. Physical therapy helps, but there are those spasms that will not release. Then I go to Urgent Care for an injection of Toradol for instant relief. I read posttraumatic incidents in life cause an abnormal flow of chemicals in the brain where certain chemicals leave the brain too fast and causes spasms.

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Comment from: GBG, 45-54 Male Published: January 14

I was golfing and walking back to the cart, and stepped wrong on a tree root. My left foot curved over it and next thing I knew I heard a pop and was down in the mud. I broke my lateral malleolus in a clean horizontal break. This was December 26. I have another week to go before my next evaluation on January 20. My leg hasn't touched the floor since and my muscle tone is already gone. I scoot around the house on an office chair, and on crutches and a knee walker when out, but out doesn't happen often. I can drive but getting the crutches and scooter are difficult on my own. I broke my collar bone last year too and developed arthritis in it after it healed. I'm scared this will happen to my ankle causing pain and no more heels! Good luck to everyone who is dealing with a similar issue.

Was this comment helpful?Yes

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