What Are Involuntary Muscle Spasms?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2014
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Involuntary muscle spasms are contractions of the muscles in the body that occur without control. They are different from the involuntary muscle movements that are used to mediate a number of biological functions from breathing to digestion, as they involve muscles that are normally used in voluntary movements. Such spasms can be linked to a number of different causes and there are treatments available to address both spasms and the underlying cause. Seeking medical attention for involuntary muscle spasms is recommended if they are painful or persistent because they may be caused by a serious medical issue.

Some common causes for involuntary muscle spasms include fatigue, stress, electrolyte imbalances such as those caused by dehydration, injury to the muscle, and neurological conditions. Sometimes a muscle spasm is a simple cramp, and the contraction of the muscle can be eased with a gentle stretch. In other cases, the chemical signals used by the body to control muscle movements are disrupted and a muscle may contract and relax several times in a twitching movement that cannot be alleviated with a stretch or gentle massage.

Involuntary muscle spasms can strike any muscle in the body. In some cases, the contraction is very painful and the spasm may interfere with the performance of daily tasks. Spasms in the hands, for example, can make it difficult to engage in a variety of activities. Likewise, spasms in the legs may interfere with a person's ability to walk.

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An isolated involuntary muscle spasm is usually not a cause for concern. There are many benign causes for involuntary muscle spasms and one of these is likely the culprit. If the spasms recur, become extremely painful, or won't stop, it can be a sign that there is a serious problem. Issues like organ failure, degenerative neurological conditions, damage to the spinal cord, and exposure to toxins can all lead to involuntary muscle spasms.

A doctor can evaluate a patient with a spasmodic muscle to narrow down the cause and learn more about the patient's general level of health. If the cause can be identified and treated, this should resolve the spasms. Medications are also available to specifically treat muscular disorders, such as injections that can interrupt the signals sent to the muscles so they will stop twitching. If the spasms are the result of a neurological condition, patients should be aware that treatment for neurological illnesses is constantly being refined and improved, making it advisable to consult a neurologist to get the latest information.

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burcidi
Post 4

@simrin-- That's horrible! I hope that guy is an actor and he was just acting and not really twitching.

I think what you are talking about is a little bit different than involuntary muscle spasms though. Muscle spasms can happen to anyone, because of physical activity, medication, stress or another illness.

I think what you describe is more like tick. It actually sounds like Tourette's syndrome which my little brother has. This is a neurological disorder that causes him to have involuntary movements. Stress actually triggers some of it, but it can happen even when he is totally fine and calm.

I know that stress has a lot to do with involuntary muscle spasms in general, especially with the eyes. I had a coworker who would start to involuntarily blink whenever she got stressed out at work or felt anxious.

discographer
Post 3

I had involuntary muscle spasms for about a week last year. My doctor checked for vitamin deficiencies and found that I had a deficiency in vitamin D. I took supplements and haven't had it since.

I've also heard some of our clients at the gym I work complain about muscle spasms. Must be something about working out that causes it. Muscles rip if you do any weight training, so I think that any involuntary muscle spasms would go away with a good rest.

I'm not doctor, but if anyone complains about this at work, I tell them to take a break from working out, get rest and eat a healthy diet. So far people have been saying that this works, so it must have to do with the body not being able to handle so much strenuous exercise.

SteamLouis
Post 2

I saw a comedy show on TV and there was a guy that involuntarily twitched if someone made a certain movement towards him. Everyone thought this was funny, but I felt really bad for him and because this is a health condition, not something he chose to have.

What exactly causes this kind of twitching? Is there no treatment or cure? It seems like such a simple problem, I wish people didn't have to live that way. I think it's easy for people to misunderstand and make fun of them. They don't always realize that they are doing it involuntarily.

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