Everyone is familiar with the pain of a muscle spasm—most people have experienced the pain and discomfort of a charley horse or sudden cramp, which is caused by the involuntary contraction of a muscle.1
Most people, too, have experienced fasciculation, or muscle twitches, which are usually not painful the way a sudden cramp may be. Both cramps and fasciculation are the result of muscles contracting involuntarily.
Muscle spasms can be a response pain, which occurs as the body takes steps to protect itself. Shoulder impingement, for example, can cause muscle spasms. Another common cause, particularly for athletes, is facet joint pain.2 In cases where injury has not caused the spasms, there are several other possible causes, including:
- Poor nutrition
- Weak muscles
- A condition such as arthritis or fibromyalgia
Finding and correcting the underlying problem, not just the residual spasms, will help stop and relieve a patient’s pain.3 Once the underlying cause has been addressed, whether it is an injury or one of the causes listed above, treatment options can be discussed.
DCs almost always have patients who are experiencing muscle spasms in the muscles of the neck and/or back, and instrument adjusting can help relieve the underlying causes of those painful spasms.4
Often, medical doctors will prescribe either muscle relaxers or antispasmodic drugs to patients suffering from local muscle spasms—Flexeril, Skelaxin and Botox are all common prescriptions. Another common treatment for back muscle spasms is injections.
Instrument adjusting is a useful tool for chiropractors treating patients with muscle spasms because it can allow for extremely precise adjustments. Some computer-assisted instruments can measure the spasms, providing more information to work with. In addition, the same types of computer-assisted instruments can show exactly how much change results from an adjustment, which helps the adjustments be perfectly targeted and leads to better results.
Without treatment, on-going muscle spasms can result in permanent damage, so treatment is essential.1 Some patients may be fine after their initial treatments, while others may need to perform regular stretching and strengthening exercises to prevent future muscle spasms. In some instances, on-going instrument-assisted adjustments may help patients remain pain free.
1 NYU Langone Medical Center. “Muscle pain and spasm.” New York University. http://pain-medicine.med.nyu.edu/patient-care/conditions-we-treat/muscle-pain-and-spasm. Accessed January 2015.
2 Sports Injury Clinic. “Facet Joint Pain.” SportsInjuryClinic.net. http://www.sportsinjuryclinic.net/sport-injuries/low-back-pain/facet-joint-pain. Accessed January 2015.
3 Gonzales C. “How you can get relief from back spasms now.” BasicSpine.com. http://www.basicspine.com/blog/relief-from-back-spasms/. Published May 2013. Accessed January 2015.
4 Cedars-Sinai. “Back Spasm.” Cedars-Sinai.edu. http://www.cedars-sinai.edu/Patients/Health-Conditions/Back-Spasm.aspx. Accessed January 2015.