5 Major Triggers of Muscle Spasms

May 7th 2016

Consult with your doctor or health care professional if muscle spasms do not dissipate after a few hours. Sudden cramps during exercise that get worse with physical activity may require immediate medical attention from a medical professional.


Overused muscles become tired and overstretched when they run out of energy. If you hold a muscle in the same position for long periods of time, the area may become stiff. Fluid within the body's cells changes as muscles become weak, and the area contracts forcefully. Spasms can occur in part of a muscle, an entire muscle or a group of muscles. Athletes, people engaged in strenuous exercise or even people mowing a lawn on a hot day can suffer from spasms.

Poor Blood Circulation

Muscles require nutrients and energy to function properly. When blood vessels narrow after you cease exercising, your muscles may cramp from the sudden loss of blood. This feeling normally goes away after you rest from exercising. Stretching before and after strenuous exercise may alleviate cramps and spasms. Atherosclerosis or peripheral artery disease can also cut off circulation to your legs or arms.

Mineral Depletion

Your muscles, and the nervous system that controls them, require the proper balance of minerals, electrolytes and water to function properly. These tissues need magnesium, potassium and calcium to work efficiently. If your diet lacks these nutrients, you may experience more muscle spasms. Diuretic drugs, especially those used to treat high blood pressure, can also deplete these minerals faster and cause spasms. Some medications used to treat Alzheimer's disease, osteoporosis, asthma and Parkinson's disease may cause muscle contractions and spasms.

Nerve Damage

Nerve damage or nerve compression in the back or neck may cause spasms in the back, arms or legs because your muscles do not receive the proper signals from the brain. Pain may worsen the longer you walk if you have spasms in your legs. Chronic neck and back pain, or other underlying health issues unrelated to the muscles, can cause chemical or electrical changes in your muscles that may lead to spasms.

Sleep Disturbances

Sleep disturbances can cause leg and foot muscles to tense during the night. This tension causes charley horses, foot cramps and nocturnal leg cramps. These types of spasms generally increase with age, and the exact cause of these cramps, sometimes associated with restless legs syndrome, is not yet known.


Muscle spasms, otherwise known as cramps, occur when involuntary contractions happen in one or more muscles of the body. Muscles in your legs, back, hands, arms and abdomen represent the areas most prone to spasms. These contractions can have a number of causes.

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