spasm

spasm

[spaz-uhm]
spasm, involuntary rigid muscle contraction, often persistent and often accompanied by pain. It usually has some underlying physical cause such as disease, strain, or injury to the muscle or nearby tissues, impairment of circulation, or a disturbance of body chemistry. The spasm may be confined to one group of muscles or it may be severe and fairly generalized, as in convulsions. Painless localized spasms are called tics. These purposeless movements, usually of some part of the face, may begin as purposeful movement in response to some stimulus but eventually are carried out automatically, apparently without reason. They may disappear spontaneously after a time, or may require the elimination of some physical or psychic cause.

A spasm is a sudden, involuntary contraction of a muscle, a group of muscles, or a hollow organ, or a similarly sudden contraction of an orifice. It is sometimes accompanied by a sudden burst of pain, but is usually harmless and ceases after a few minutes. Spasmodic muscle contraction may also be due to a large number of medical conditions, including the dystonias.

By extension, a spasm is a temporary burst of energy, activity, emotion, stress, or anxiety.

A subtype of spasms is colic, an episodic pain due to spasms of smooth muscle in a particular organ (e.g. the bile duct). A characteristic of colic is the sensation of having to move about, and the pain may induce nausea or vomiting if severe. Series of spasms or permanent spasms are called a spasmism.

In very severe cases, the spasm can induce muscular contractions that are more forceful than the sufferer could generate under normal circumstances. This can lead to torn tendons and ligaments.

Some argue that hysterical strength is a type of spasm induced by the brain under extreme circumstances.

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