5 Signs and Symptoms of a Muscle Spasm

May 7th 2016

Visit a doctor if your muscle spasm does not subside, does not have an obvious cause, or has accompanying redness. Chronic muscle spasms may be concerning. Discuss any unexplained muscle spasms with your primary care physician to determine a possible course of treatment.

What Is a Spasm?

A spasm involves an involuntary contraction of muscle fibers that may affect part of a muscle, one whole muscle or a muscle group. The onset of a spasm can be sudden, and a spasm usually subsides within minutes.

Sudden Pain

A sudden, sharp pain represents one of the most obvious symptoms relating to spasms. The pain usually occurs after the muscle contracts, such as when a leg muscle moves as you start running, or when back muscles move when bending. The pain means your body is trying to tell you something atypical is happening.


Your muscle may feel tight, sore or stiff during or after a spasm. This feeling may go away after a few second or a few minutes, depending on the level of activity, the surrounding temperature, and your hydration level. Try stretching the muscle, moving the area in a different direction or relaxing for a few minutes until the tightness resolves. Sometimes, you can feel the tightness beneath the skin as a hard spot.

Bulging Muscle

A muscle that contracts involuntarily and holds that position may appear to bulge under the skin. A spasm in the calf muscle, often referred to as a charley horse, could form a circular bulge along the leg bone. The bulge normally decreases after a minute or two. This bulge feels tight and makes it hard for that particular muscle to move. When surrounding areas move enough, the bulge may subside. Try moving the knee or the foot to circulate blood to the area.

Strenuous Physical Activity

Among many possible reasons, one cause of muscle spasms may be related to strenuous physical activity. If a muscle suddenly tenses up, hurts and becomes difficult to move, you should probably take it easier on your body at that time. Muscles work hard during exercise or when playing sports, which often leads to muscle spasms.

Lack of Water

Dehydration is a common cause of muscle spasms, especially when you get that tight feeling on a hot day. When a muscle spasms without any strenuous activity, yet you feel very warm and dry, your hydration level may be causing the muscular dysfunction. Drink some fluids to help bring your muscles back to proper form.


Muscle spasms, also known as muscle cramps, can be painful to experience. Spasms may happen in any part of the body, but the most common places include the legs, arms, back, abdomen and ribs. The signs or symptoms you are experiencing may help you determine if you are having a muscle spasm and what you can do to help relieve the pain.

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