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General characteristics

General characteristics

A spasm is a sudden involuntary movement or contraction of a voluntary (under conscious control) or involuntary (not under conscious control) muscle or muscle group. The spasm may be fleeting and occur as a one off incident, be intermittent and occur from time to time or more rarely last for longer periods of time and pain may accompany the spasms. Dystonia is a condition that involves muscle spasms, tremors or cramps in various areas of the body such as in the hands (writers cramp) or be  a symptom of another disease state within the body. Spasms may occur in all types of muscle tissue - smooth muscle (heart, intestinal walls, organs etc) and skeletal muscle (legs, hands, feet etc). In skeletal muscle, the limbs may be contorted into strange positions for the duration of the spasm.

Causes of spasm include dehydration, electrolyte imbalance (sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium etc), overwork and tiredness of a muscle or muscle group, working muscle groups that are not normally used, muscles held in the same position for long periods, lack of proper blood flow to the muscles, lack of glucose to the muscles, nervous system diseases (MS and spinal cord injuries for example), other diseases like diabetes, anaemia, kidney and thyroid problems, working in excessive heat, pharmaceutical medicines (e.g. anti-psychotics) and poor nutrition.

Healing objectives are to correct any suspected nutritional deficiencies, determine the underlying cause of the spasms and treating it accordingly and to provide relief from the symptoms using anti-spasmodic herbs until proper healing has occurred. See also muscles.

Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Muscles require calcium for efficient contraction so consume plenty of calcium rich foods such as fresh carrot juice and carrots, sesame seeds and halva, dark green leaves such as kale, spinach and collards, broccoli and other cabbage type plants, organic dairy such as yoghurt, cheeses and milk.

Take a teaspoon or so daily of blackstrap molasses which will provide valuable muscle/nerve nutrients (magnesium etc) and many other useful nutrients.

Anti-oxidants such as vitamin C are vital for efficient tissue repair. Anti-oxidant rich foods include all fresh fruit and vegetables but especially the berry fruits.

Protein consumption is vital for muscle building and structure, particularly when you are physically working hard, trying to build muscle or growing. Good reliable protein sources include animal products like beef (organic and grass fed where possible), organic eggs, salmon and other wild caught fish, quinoa , organic unsweetend yoghurt (add your own berries for a mega nutrient boost), nuts such as almonds and nut butters and beans (less protein and more carbohydrate).

Potassium is needed for muscle cell growth and maintenance and good sources include bananas, avocados, dried apricots and raisins, organic potato peel/skins, green leaves and culinary herbs, tomatoes, fish such as salmon, sardines and cod and nuts in general.

Beetroot juice (fresh) has been shown to increase muscle health by making them use less fuel and oxygen in order to perform the same tasks for longer periods with less muscle fatigue.

Useful herbs

Useful herbs

One of the most effective muscle tonics (it is both relaxing and stimulating, depending on what it finds in the body) that is antispasmodic is lobelia herb. In tincture form it is taken in small doses drops at a time, then increased drop by drop until relief is found. Unfortunately lobelia is only available through consultation with a qualified herbalist. You could grow and harvest the plant yourself though. Look for 'Lobelia inflata' (correct Latin name) seeds.

Cayenne (capsicum, chilli) can be excellent for spasms as it will encourage good blood supply to and from the affected muscle tissues. Take a few drops of the tincture or add a pinch of powder to herbal teas.

Specific antispasmodics for various parts of the body include mullein, hyssop and thyme (lungs), chamomile, wild yam root, lemon balm, peppermint, fennel seed, celery seeds (and all other digestive type seeds such as dill, aniseed etc) ginger, hops (digestive system), black cohosh, myrrh, skullcap, valerian, catnip, black haw, devils claw, wild yam, boneset (skeletal muscles), motherwort (heart), sage (nerves, digestion), passionflower for the nerves and muscles.

Crampbark tincture is specific for spasm and cramp and will start working quickly. Take 1 teaspoon of the tincture in a little water up to 3 times daily.

Rosemary tincture or essential oil (diluted( can be rubbed on the skin to help relieve spasm and encourage proper blood supply to the area.

Skullcap can help to relieve muscle spasms when stress and tension are involved and when problems with the spinal cord and sympathetic nervous system are involved. Take a teaspoon of the tincture in a little water 3 times daily for several weeks to see results.

Schisandra can be helpful for digestive spasms.

Natural healing

Natural healing

Some people have found relief by drinking a glass or two of tonic water. Make sure you find a good ethical brand that does not contain artificial sweeteners and other additives, such as this one made by fever tree. They go to a lot of trouble to source the best ingredients and support the growers.

Massaging the affected muscle firmly but gently for several minutes may help to relieve it.

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