What Are Muscle Spasms?

Muscle spasms are sudden involuntary contractions of one or more muscles and often lead to cramping. Some muscles are more prone to spasms, including the calf muscles and abdominal region. Causes include vitamin deficiency, magnesium or potassium deficiency and fatigue.

Pregnant women who experience a deficiency in calcium and individuals with poor circulation in their muscles are at high risk of muscle spasms. Dehydration and over-exertion during exercise may also lead to muscle spasms, as does not stretching sufficiently prior to exercise. Some prescription medications can cause muscle spasms as a side effect.

While muscle spasms typically last only a few seconds and are not serious, some serious side effects may occur. These side effects include strains and tears of ligaments and tendons when the spasm produces more force than the connective tissue being targeted can handle.

The treatment of a muscle spasm and the subsequent cramping that it causes, depends on the location. For a spasm in the calf muscle, commonly referred to as a charley horse, stretching the muscle by putting weight on it and bending the knee may alleviate the cramping. An adequate intake of water and vitamins, a magnesium- and potassium-rich diet and regular stretching of the muscles help prevent spasms.