Muscle Spasms and MS
Remember when being a "spas" meant you were someone who may have overreacted to a situation with a sudden outburst of energy or emotion? Or when being told not to "spas out" meant not to get too upset or weird on your friends? No one wanted to be labeled a flake or a spas. Wouldn't it be nice to be an emotional spas as opposed to a MS spas? At least we would have a fighting chance, if we needed to learn to control our emotional outbursts and actions. It would be something we could all probably fix to a certain degree. Not so with muscle spasms. No amount of determination and mental concentration can ease the pain that comes our way when muscle spasms enter our lives.
However, since knowledge is still power, understanding exactly what muscle spasms are and how they affect our bodies, may enable us to find some relief albeit temporary, from the pain the spasms bring. Furthermore, there are actual medications that can aid with this problem, which is always a good alternative weapon to have in our arsenal.
Why Do Muscles Go Into Spasms?
What makes a muscle by-pass the irritating but tolerable muscle cramping stage and take up residence in the Land of Spasticity? As far as MS is concerned, the spasms occur because our muscles wish to both contract and relax at the same time. Doesn' that sound just like MS? Always doing things the hard way and trying to make our bodies do the impossible. Muscles are not suppose to contract and relax at the same time, they are suppose to do one or the other. No wonder it gives us
- muscle stiffness
- muscle spasms
- reduced joint mobility
- related discomfort from all of the above
- fatigue - the mortal enemy of anyone trying to live a normal life
All of this abnormal muscle behaviour most affects the muscles we use to walk and hold an upright posture. Leg spasms are a common complaint with MSers and not just during the daytime hours. Who hasn't experienced getting in a relaxed almost ready to sleep mode, when suddenly a cramp, tightness or full spasm kicks in and totally disrupts our peace.
Or the ever popular spasms that occur when you are minding your own business, dreaming away the night only to be jarred our of your sleep by a searing pain in one or both of your legs.
My most irritating experience are the spasms or cramps, haven't decided for sure which it is, that occurs between my toes, while I'm fast asleep. BETWEEN MY TOES! You ever try to get the muscles between your toes to relax? Who even knew we had muscles that could tighten up and cause pain right there? And which muscle is trying to pull while another tries to relax, between my toes? I'm already asleep, am I not relaxed?
My conclusion, the culprit is restless leg syndrome. Obviously our bodies never totally shut down, which also explains why we are so tired apart from the extra work it takes to walk when our leg muscles aren't performing their normal duties. I found out from my husband that I'm constantly in motion when I sleep. He said he doesn't understand how I get any rest whatsoever. I say my sleeping pill allows me to not respond to the constant motion, until a spasm kicks in. No way that is not going to get my attention, sleeping pill or not.
If you suffer from spasms at night even while you are asleep, examine if you might suffer from restless leg syndrome as well.
At Least We Have Toned Muscles
Hey, everyone wants a toned bod, right? Well, when spasticity is a problem, it causes an increase in muscle tone. Of course the down side to that is that your muscles can become straight as a board making it difficult to walk or use your arms as effectively. But hey, lets just concentrate on the toned, tightened arms and legs that give us the appearance of being in good shape, that is if we don't have a lot of extra pounds on us to cover it all up.
Where Are Your Problem Areas?
Thinking about the tightness, cramping or spasms that hit you. Where would you say your problem areas are?
For me, the legs, especially at night, but also my shoulders and neck get very tight and painful.
Although I've lifted weights since my teenage years, I can feel it in my biceps if I try to lift something for a period of time. My husband refers to my strength as 5-seconds of energy. Meaning I'm strong and can take him down arm-wrestling, but only if I pounce the first five seconds. He says he knows he just has to count to five and then victory is his. I can maintain the strength I've had all my life if a job can be done quickly, but after that, I'm a wet noodle, a shell of my former self, even though my muscles remain totally toned.
If only there were an actual cure, it would be a pleasant change. However, in the case of muscle spasms there are plenty of medications to choose from, which is nice.
Before starting any medication, you might want to see if some good old-fashioned exercise just might be the ticket. A physical therapist could get you started on specific stretching exercises for your problem areas, but if that is not something you can afford, there are always exercises readily available from the books or the Internet that may be able to assist you. You are looking for ROM (range of motion) exercises and don't forget that aquatic exercise has been touted as the easiest way to get a full body workout without being left totally exhausted.
Personally, the exercise bike and lifting weights have always helped lessen the severity of my leg and shoulder/arm spasms.
I was given Baclophen, and I have used it during the rare times the pain was unusually bad. It did help, and I think it works best for me when I'm bedridden and cannot move freely, which of course makes the muscles and joints tighter and more painful.
I think most doctors start with baclofen. Also prescribed is
Foot-drop As The Culprit
Don't forget to remember that foot-drop could be quietly lurking behind the scenes causing your spasticity in your legs. Do you have foot-drop? If you do, relieving the effects of foot-drop by using an AFO (ankle-foot orthosis) or other walking aids could just help reduce the spasticity