Do you sometimes have muscles that tighten and do not relax, no matter what you do? This is called muscle spasm, and many people with fibromyalgia have this problem. In fact, some researchers consider one of the main causes of our pain.
Spasms are different from muscle spasms, which are brief and usually painless. When a muscle spasms, it squeezes firm and stays that way.
Spasms can be painful for anyone, and they are worse for those with fibromyalgia because of a symptom called hyperalgesia, which is the name of the way our nervous systems amplify the signs of pain.
What causes muscle spasm?
We don’t have much research on why muscle spasms are involved in fibromyalgia. However, at least one study (Ge) suggests that our spasms are caused by myofascial trigger points.
Myofascial trigger points (PG) are routine bands of tissue that form when soft tissue injuries (such as a sprain or strain) do not heal properly. A condition called myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) can develop in someone with multiple active trigger points. MPS is extremely common in people with fibromyalgia and some doctors believe they are really the same condition.
PGs feel like hard nodules under the skin and are usually the size of a pencil rubber. It hurts when you push them. More important, however, is that PGs cause referred pain, which is pain in another area of the body. For example, a Trp in the muscle that runs along the side of the neck can cause pain in the upper part of the head, as well as feeling sinus pain under the eyes.
In the Ge study, the researchers managed to reproduce the muscle pain of fibromyalgia – those seemingly random pains that arise in areas where nothing is wrong with the tissues – manipulating the PG. They concluded that PGs cause muscle spasms that were primarily responsible for fibromyalgia pain.
Of course, a single study is never conclusive.
Our muscle spasms can also be caused by other things, such as overactive nerves, nutritional deficiencies or anything else.
Treating muscle spasms Muscle
spasms can be difficult to get rid of, so fortunately we have many options.
Things you can experience at home include:
heat, ice or alternating between the two
topical pain medications, such as Aspercreme, Tiger Balm or BioFreeze
relaxation / meditation
gentle stretching / yoga
salt baths epsom
Nutritionally, several things are believed to help with muscle aches. While they have not been studied specifically for fibromyalgia, foods and supplements that may help include:
magnesium and malic acid (separately or together, such as magnesium malate)
foods rich in potassium, such as dates, bananas, apricot, melon, grapefruit, peas, beans, potatoes, fish and
calcium- bovine liver (because the cells need two times more calcium to relax a muscle than to tighten one)
vitamin D (which tends to be deficient in fibromyalgia).
Health care providers also have a variety of tools to help relax tense muscles, such as:
acupuncture injections (which is one of the preferred treatments for PGs)
therapeutic massage, chiropractic and other manual therapies
prescribed anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxant physiotherapy
A 2002 study (Gur) suggested that low-intensity laser therapy can help relieve muscle spasms and the pain they cause in fibromyalgia. Several subsequent studies of this treatment were also positive, although not all specifically analyzed the impact on muscle spasms.
You can also make changes in your lifestyle to help relieve or avoid muscle spasms. These may include:
making your workstation more ergonomic by
improving your posture by
changing where or how you sit to watch TV
finding a pillow that gives you better support
wearing good shoes or insoles
You can pay to really examine your habits and see the things you do that can aggravate your muscles and make simple changes. If you need help to repair your posture, talk to your doctor about physical therapy.