health care  
 
All about muscle spasms and cramps causes of muscle spasms symptoms of muscle spasms diagnosis of spasms treatment for spasms

What causes muscle spasms?

Normal voluntary muscle contraction begins when electrical signals are sent from the brain through the spinal cord along nerve cells called motor neurons. These include both the upper motor neurons within the brain and the lower motor neurons within the spinal cord and leading out to the muscle. At the muscle, chemicals released by the motor neuron stimulate the internal release of calcium ions from stores within the muscle cell. These calcium ions then interact with

muscle proteins within the cell, causing the proteins (actin and myosin) to slide past one another. This motion pulls their fixed ends closer, thereby shortening the cell and, ultimately, the muscle itself. Recapture of calcium and unlinking of actin and myosin allows the muscle fiber to relax.

Abnormal contraction may be caused by abnormal activity at any stage in this process. Certain mechanisms within the brain and the rest of the central nervous system help regulate contraction. Interruption of these mechanisms can cause spasm. Motor neurons that are overly sensitive may fire below their normal thresholds. The muscle membrane itself may be over sensitive, causing contraction without stimulation. Calcium ions may not be recaptured quickly enough, causing prolonged contraction.

Interuption of brain mechanisms and overly sensitive motor neurons may result from damage to the nerve pathways. Possible causes include stroke, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, neurodegenerative diseases, trauma, spinal cord injury, and nervous system poisons such as strychnine, tetanus, and certain insecticides. Nerve damage may lead to a prolonged or permanent muscle shortening called contracture.

Changes in muscle responsiveness may be due to or associated with:
Prolonged exercise. Curiously, relaxation of a muscle actually requires energy to be expended. The energy is used to recapture calcium and to unlink actin and myosin. Normally, sensations of pain and fatigue signal that it is time to rest. Ignoring or overriding those warning signals can lead to such severe energy depletion that the muscle cannot be relaxed, causing a cramp. The familiar advice about not swimming after a heavy meal, when blood flow is directed away from the muscles, is intended to avoid this type of cramp. Rigor mortis, the stiffness of a corpse within the first 24 hours after death, is also due to this phenomenon.

Dehydration and salt depletion. This may be brought on by protracted vomiting or diarrhea, or by copious sweating during prolonged exercise, especially in high temperatures. Loss of fluids and salts--especially sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium--can disrupt ion balances in both muscle and nerves. This can prevent them from responding and recovering normally, and can lead to cramp.

Metabolic disorders that affect the energy supply in muscle. These are inherited diseases in which particular muscle enzymes are deficient. They include deficiencies of myophosphorylase (McArdle's disease), phosphorylase b kinase, phosphofructokinase, phosphoglycerate kinase, and lactate dehydrogenase.

Myotonia. This causes stiffness due to delayed relaxation of the muscle, but does not cause the spontaneous contraction usually associated with cramps. However, many patients with myotonia do experience cramping from exercise. Symptoms of myotonia are often worse in the cold. Myotonias include myotonic dystrophy, myotonia congenita, paramyotonia congenita, and neuromyotonia.

Fasciculations may be due to fatigue, cold, medications, metabolic disorders, nerve damage, or neurodegenerative disease, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Most people experience brief, mild fasciculations from time to time, usually in the calves.

More information on muscle spasms

What're muscle spasms? - Muscle spasms and cramps are spontaneous, often painful muscle contractions, including types of abnormal muscle activity other than sudden painful contraction.
What causes muscle spasms? - Spasms can be caused by certain mechanisms within the brain. Possible causes include stroke, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy.
What're symptoms of muscle spasms? - The pain of a muscle cramp is intense, localized, and often debilitating coming on quickly. Contractures develop more slowly.
How're spasms diagnosed? - Abnormal contractions are diagnosed through a careful medical history, physical and neurological examination, and electromyography.
What's the treatment for spasms? - Most cases of simple cramps require no treatment. Cramps may be treated or prevented with Gingko.
Neurological disorders Mainpage

Topics in neurological disorders

Autoimmune nervous system diseases
Autonomic nervous system diseases
Degenerative nervous system diseases
Central nervous system diseases
Brain diseases
Cranial nerve disorders
Headaches
Dementia
Language disorders
Perceptual disorders
Motor neuron diseases
Neurologic manifestations
Movement disorders
Peripheral nerve disorders
Sleep disorders
Spinal cord diseases
 

Featured neurological articles

Multiple sclerosis
Cerebral palsy
Migraine headache
Cluster headache
Alzheimer's disease
Stuttering
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Parkinson's disease
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy
Diabetic neuropathy
Lower back pain
Snoring
Sleep apnea
Brain tumor
Brain cancer
Spinal cord tumors

Nutrition for neurological disorders


MindSoothe for emotional health
MindSoothe, a natural herbal remedy, contains a selection of herbs known for their calming and supportive function in maintaining brain and nervous system health, emotional balance and overall wellbeing.

Neuro Natural Memory
Specifically formulated to help support brain health, Neuro-Natural Memory may help improve memory, concentration levels and reduce the potential for brain and memory function problems.

Triple Complex Sleep Tonic
Sleep Tonic helps the body relax and produce all the hormones essential for healthy sleep; safe for everyone, including pregnant and nursing women, children, and small babies.


All information is intended for reference only. Please consult your physician for accurate medical advices and treatment. Copyright 2005, health-cares.net, all rights reserved. Last update: July 18, 2005