The cause of muscle spasms is often debated. True muscle spasms are sudden involuntary bursts of contractions triggering painful or nagging aches. This is caused by the misfiring of the nervous system commonly thought of as an overused muscle group. So it is commonly believed that stretches, massages and numbing it with trigger point injections will be the solution. Why then after we loosen this tight, painful area does it return to being just as stiff and painful?
The perceived “cause” of muscle spasms must not be the root cause. Rather, if we changed our paradigm and believed it is caused by a weakness of that muscle group, then we may be moving in the right direction to solving the mysterious case of muscle spasms. The muscles’ inability to support the structures causes compensations from muscles that are not necessarily supposed to be working. Instead of the common thinking of overuse, it should be thought of as underused.
Over the past few years, Trigger Point injections have become the latest craze in treating muscle spasms. I’m not too crazy about these injections because it doesn’t solve the cause. If indeed the cause was an overused muscle, then numbing and resting the muscle would solve everything. Unfortunately, most injections only work for a short time or don’t work at all. If the muscle spasm is thought of as being underused then we need to approach it with a different solution. This is why I believe strengthening and stabilizing the muscle instead of just “numbing” it
I am convinced that many of us use the bigger “moving” muscles like the paraspinal muscles and neglect the smaller “stabilizing” muscles like the core/multifidi muscles. The poor postures we sit in allow only certain big muscle groups to be engaged and the smaller ones to be deactivated. We simply don’t exercise and strengthen our small muscles enough.
Throughout the course of the day, our bigger muscles get tired from being over-worked and there’s neither the capacity nor strength to keep them functioning properly. It’s only a matter of time before the big muscles become exhausted and breakdown. This is then the painful response you feel in the form of a spasm.
The neglected smaller muscles, which are important for your posture and repetitive endurance, need to be re-educated, retrained, and strengthened with endurance-type exercises and adequate resistive holds. Smaller muscles help ensure the smooth control of motion because big muscles fatigue faster and are “jerky” in nature. Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF), a type of Neuromuscular Re-education (NMR) performed manually, is the correct way to get rid of your muscle ache, reinstate control, and recruit smaller stabilizing muscles. Prescribed stabilizing exercises should also smooth out your movement greatly and eliminate your muscle spasms. Come to Rehab and Revive to experience care done precisely!
We heal smarter, not harder.
Dr. Justin Lin