I have been working out 5 days a week at 5 am. I drag my butt to my HIIT class and then dash out of there to get to work in time. As a result, I have been skipping the stretching after the workout and this was inevitably going to lead to a bad place. Well it finally did when I was putting dishes in the dishwasher and both my paraspinal muscles cramped up. I couldn’t move, I mean I completely froze up. Call it what you want, muscle spasms, cramps, or charlie horses. Whatever you call it, they hurt!
So I did what I tell all my patients to do, used my back roller, did yoga stretches, and tried to keep moving. It didn’t help. Marwan came home 4 hours later and found me stuck on the couch so he massaged my back and helped put IcyHot patches all over. Again, these things helped but I was still uncomfortable. Then I caved in and did something I don’t believe in, I took a muscle relaxer. Guess what, it did nothing! Those things are useless, they just make you fall asleep so you don’t notice the pain.
This all happened on the weekend so I figured I had 2 days to get better until I had to start working out again. Monday came, and while it wasn’t as bad, it still hurt. I pushed myself to go to my workout anyway, thinking I would just take it easy so I didn’t get hurt. 5 minutes into the workout, gone! My muscles completely relaxed and I was back to normal, just like that. It goes to show my initial thoughts were right, keep moving and don’t let those muscles lock up. Stretch everyday, lesson learned! I have written so many times about the benefits of yoga and I mean it, a few minutes of yoga everyday helps keep you limber and pain-free.
What to do for muscle spasms:
- Massage it out: Muscle spasms are when your muscles involuntary contract and don’t release. Massaging the muscle may help to release it and help decrease the pain.
- Stretch: I sound like a broken record here but do yoga stretches to help release the muscles. Stretching after exercise also helps prevent those spasms from happening in the first place.
- Heat and Cold: Apply IcyHot or other over-the-counter topical creams to help relax your muscles. 20 minutes of hot or cold max followed by a 20 minute break. Repeat as needed.
- Keep moving: Lying or sitting on your butt will actually make those muscles stiff and more prone to spasm. This was the most effective treatment for me, getting up and continuing to use and stretch those muscles. Listen to your body so you don’t get injured, stop if you feel pain. Only do what feels comfortable but definitely keep doing, and don’t sit or lie around all day.
A common misconception is that muscle spasm or cramps occur when you have electrolyte imbalances. This is not actually true and the cause remains unclear. There is a theory that it may be related to the nerves in the muscles, but we don’t really know.