Carpopedal spasms are extremely painful cramps or contractions that mostly occur in the hand and feet muscles. They can be caused by infections such as tetanus or simply be due to low calcium levels in the blood. An accurate carpopedal spasm definition would be an involuntary sudden vibration and muscular contraction of both or either of the hands and feet. However, it is commonly used as a medical term for a sudden involuntary muscle contraction.
Muscle contractions in these parts of the body can be very painful and may even indicate a situation requiring emergency intervention. Patients suffering from seizure disorders may suddenly suffer from muscle contractions, often in a similar manner.
What causes carpopedal spasm?
Hypocalcemia: Calcium is a vital component for proper muscle contraction and relaxation. When calcium levels are found to be low in the body, carpopedal spasm can be appreciated as an early sign, usually accompanied by an abnormal sensation of the fingers, toes, and perioral region. Changes in mental status, dry scaly skin, brittle nails, and thin patchy hair and eyebrows may also be present. Also, a lack of vitamin D can lead to calcium deficiency.
Tetanus (Clostridium tetani): A bacteria that can enter wounds and infect non-immunized individuals, causing muscle spasms and painful seizures. Tetanus is also characterized by difficulties swallowing and a low-grade fever. If a person infected with tetanus does not receive treatment right away, it can be fatal.
Hypothyroidism: A metabolic disorder in which the thyroid gland does not function properly. This may lead to symptoms such as weight gain, tiredness, weakness, muscle aches and cramps, and even depression. The condition may cause the swelling of particular muscles of the foot, leading to nerve impingement. This can lead to the development of burning, tingling pain sensations, particularly in the arch of the foot.
Hyperventilation: Occurs when you breathe at a faster rate than normal and is commonly seen in very serious conditions such as infection, bleeding, or heart attack. Over breathing can lead the calcium levels in your blood to decrease. This causes a numbness and tingling sensation in both arms and around the mouth, spasms or cramps of the hands and feet, and muscle twitching.
Symptoms of carpopedal spasm
Common symptoms of carpopedal spasms include:
- Excessive cramping of fingers, wrist, toes, or ankle. Contractions are involuntary and occasionally very painful
- Weakness of the muscles
- Tingling and numbness. May also be referred to as a “pins and needles” sensation
- Tickling sensation
- Uncontrolled, pointless, speedy movements
Treating carpopedal spasm
Treatment for carpopedal syndrome will depend on the underlying causes. The following are possible treatments:
- Increase low calcium levels: This can be achieved by consuming calcium-containing foods such as salmon, sardines, leafy green vegetables, raw milk, yogurt, cheese, almonds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, tofu, orange juice, and fortified cereals.
- Take vitamin D: A vital component for the absorption of calcium in the diet. Vitamin D can be naturally increased in the body by simply having exposure to the sun, as your skin produces the vitamin. However, you may also obtain it through diet or supplementation. Foods with vitamin D include mushrooms, salmon, sardines, tuna, mackerel, egg yolks, milk, cheddar cheese, yogurt, almond milk, fortified cereals, poultry, and lean beef.
- Stretch your muscles: Keeping your muscles in good working order through stretching will help to ward off episodes of spasm by preventing the muscle from expanding or shrinking. This can be achieved through exercises such as swimming, strengthening exercises, and aerobic workouts.
- Drink plenty of water: Water is an important part of your health and is required for proper functioning of muscles and tissues. Dehydration can often lead to a decrease in muscle tone.
- Stop smoking: Besides all of the other long-term health effects that smoking can subject one too, its harsh chemicals can draw out fluid, calcium, and other essential nutrients.
- Limit Alcohol and Caffeine: Both of these substances can impair the body’s calcium absorption ability
- Get the tetanus vaccine: Helps to protect against tetanus, and you should receive a booster for the shot every 10 years