At some point in your life, you probably experienced a muscle spasm, or maybe muscle spasms are a somewhat regular occurrence for you. They are incredibly painful and occur suddenly. For many of us, muscle spasms are more common throughout the night. In fact, statistics reveal that nearly 60 percent of American adult’s experience nocturnal muscle spasms. Nocturnal muscle spasms can interrupt your sleep by jolting you awake and then leaving you in pain.
Normally, a muscle spasm is a one-off occurrence and is often a result of overworking a particular muscle. Although they can be painful, they are generally harmless. But in some cases, muscle spasms could signal a more serious problem and it’s important that you spot the difference between a harmless muscle spasm and a more threatening one.
Below you will uncover the signs and symptoms that can help you narrow in on whether or not you should be concerned about your muscle spasms.
5 signs that a muscle spasm is more serious
Your cramp occurs at the same distance on your runs: If you enjoy long runs and experience a muscle spasm at the same distance in your run each time, that could be a cause for concern. This is known as compartment syndrome, which occurs in individuals whose muscles in their designated compartment don’t have enough room to accommodate the particular exercise. When we exercise, our muscles require more blood, and to receive more blood the blood vessels dilate. When the muscle compartment is tight, there isn’t room for blood vessels to expand, which causes muscle spasms to occur.
Swelling, redness, or skin discoloration: If a muscle spasm is occurring and you also notice swelling, redness, or skin discoloration, these are signs of a blood clot. When a blood clot is in place, it doesn’t pose a large threat, but if it breaks off, then that is when the risk of a stroke or heart attack drastically increases. The risk of blood clots can increase through prolonged sitting or living a sedentary lifestyle. This is why it’s so important that you keep an active lifestyle.
Severe pain and cramping: If a muscle spasm is so painful that it is interfering with daily living, that is a definite sign of a serious problem. A muscle spasm may cause you to experience pain, curl your toes, and last roughly 10 minutes—anything outside of that can be a result of something more serious. Possible causes of a severe spasm are inadequate blood to the given muscle, pinched nerve, or ovarian mass.
Nausea, fever, and vomiting: Dehydration or food poisoning not only trigger muscle spasms, but also lead to nausea, fever, and vomiting. Always ensure food is cooked and handled properly and that you are staying well hydrated to prevent these types of muscle spasms.
Burning and tingling down the leg: A herniated disk can trigger symptoms in other areas of the body. Case-in-point, you may experience muscle spasms and burning and tingling in your leg, when it fact, it is resulting from a herniated disk. In many cases, anti-inflammatory medications and muscle relaxants are enough to ease the pain.