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 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.
These 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.
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.