Muscle contractions: multiple sclerosis and other possible causes

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Muscle spasms occur when nerves fail, causing muscle fiber groups to contract. This is a common occurrence in multiple sclerosis (MS) due to damage to the nerve fibers that affects the transmission of signals between the nerves and the muscles.

But there are other possible causes of different types of muscle spasms, from fatigue and nutritional deficiencies to thyroid diseases, etc. Some are benign, others require medical attention.

If you have multiple sclerosis, muscle spasms may be related to your condition. Or it could be due to one of these other reasons that you too may not realize that you are living. It is important to understand the reason for what you are experiencing.

Similarly, for those who have not been diagnosed with MS, it is best not to ignore this symptom, as you may have a condition that requires treatment. There are three types of muscle spasms, each with a certain level of uniqueness.

Spasticity

Spasticity describes the tightness and stiffness of the muscles and spasms, which can be persistent or sudden; some people describe it as spasms.

Spasticity is a common symptom of multiple sclerosis, and it often affects one or both legs. It occurs as a result of an alteration in the signals between the upper motor neurons and the lower motor neurons. In other words, there is a disruption in the transmission of nerve impulses from the brain and spinal cord to the nerves that control the muscles.

Other conditions that can cause spasticity include :

Clonus

Clonus describes repetitive spasms or spasms of the muscles and, like spasticity, it is believed to be caused by abnormal nerve transmission characteristic of multiple sclerosis. For example, the normal ankle jerk reflex is overactive, and the muscle that controls it jerks rhythmically and uncontrollably.

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In more severe cases, the knee reflex is overactive and the muscle that controls the knee shakes rhythmically and uncontrollably.

Other causes of clonus include:

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • A brain tumor
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Hereditary spastic paraparesis
  • Infections such as meningitis or encephalitis.
  • Renal insufficiency
  • Liver failure
  • Serious injury to the nerves of the brain or spinal cord
  • Career

Seduction

Lower motor neurons carry nerve signals from the spinal cord to muscles. When these nerve signals are interrupted, muscle weakness and wasting eventually occur, as well as uncontrolled muscle spasms called fasciculations.

Fasciculations are a hallmark of diseases that affect lower motor neurons, such as ALS. Other lower motor neuron diseases that can cause twitching include post-polio syndrome, spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) , and progressive muscular atrophy.

In multiple sclerosis, the lower motor neurons are rarely affected, so fasciculations are not usually a symptom of the disease.

In addition to neurological diseases, fasciculations can also be a symptom of certain diseases and conditions outside of the nervous system, such as :

  • Overactive thyroid
  • An overactive or inactive parathyroid gland
  • Electrolyte disturbances (such as low phosphate levels or high calcium levels)
  • Severe kidney disease
  • Lack of nutrients like vitamin D, vitamin B12, magnesium, and potassium.

Benign muscle spasms

It is important to understand that ordinary muscles contract here and there is most likely nothing to worry about. Spasms can occur in healthy people and rarely indicate the presence of an underlying disease, especially if it occurs without other symptoms.

Muscle cramps unrelated to an underlying disease or abnormality can be caused by several factors, including:

  • Certain medications , such as water pills or steroids.
  • Exposure to extreme cold
  • Hyperventilation
  • Vigorous exercise
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Fatigue or lack of sleep
  • Too much caffeine or alcohol

In these cases, muscle contractions are benign and short-lived, which means that they do not represent a major health problem and come and go quickly.

Two unusual conditions called benign fasciculation syndrome and spasmodic fasciculation syndrome cause frequent muscle contractions and, in the latter, muscle spasms. These conditions are believed to arise from nerve hyperexcitability and are not associated with loss of nerve or muscle function.

Diagnostics

Each disease and condition has its own set of established or widely accepted diagnostic criteria.

To determine the root cause of muscle spasms, your healthcare provider will likely perform a physical exam and ask questions such as:

  • When your muscles started to contract
  • Where spasms occur
  • How often do spasms occur
  • How long does the contraction last?
  • If you have other symptoms

If your doctor suspects that muscle spasms may be caused by an underlying medical condition, he or she may order blood tests, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) , computed tomography (CT) , or electromyography to assess the condition of your muscles and the nerve cells that control them.

While the muscle contractions are likely related to your multiple sclerosis, if you've been diagnosed, there's also a chance that you're dealing with a secondary problem causing this symptom.

Watch out

The first priority is treating the underlying cause of the muscle spasms, and this can stop them. What this implies, of course, depends on the underlying condition of the symptom.

Generally, medications that can be used to treat spasticity and clonus include :

  • Neuromuscular blockers
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Benzodiazepines

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The appearance of a new or unexplained symptom is always confusing. If you experience frequent or unpleasant muscle spasms, especially if you live with multiple sclerosis , be sure to see your doctor.

There may be a simple explanation and a relatively easy intervention to control this symptom. If the cause cannot be determined, you will at least be confident that you have nothing to worry about.

Frequently asked questions

  • A muscle spasm in multiple sclerosis can feel like a muscle twitch or a painful muscle twitch. For example, it can make it difficult to bend or straighten your leg.

  • Fasciculations, or muscle spasms, occur where nerve ends, called axons, touch the muscles. The nerve generates an electrical impulse and triggers the release of a chemical between the axon and the muscle, causing the muscle to contract. When this happens unintentionally, it can be caused by caffeine, stress, or, in rare cases, a medical condition like ALS.

  • If you start to notice muscle spasms, try the following tips to stop them:

    • Sleep a little
    • Avoid caffeine
    • Find ways to relax and relieve stress
    • Eat nutritious food

    If your muscle spasms are persistent or recurring for several months, or if you have additional symptoms, see your doctor for an evaluation.

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