Are my muscle spasms from fibromyalgia or something else? A doctor explains

Muscle spasm, muscle cramp or Charlie horse?  What is the difference? Before discussing muscle spasms and fibromyalgia, here is a description of a few overlapping and synonymous terms: Muscle spasm – a sudden, painful, involuntary and prolonged contraction of a muscle or group of muscles, lasting from a few seconds to a few minutes, involving usually postural muscles Muscle cramp – another name for muscles in spasm, especially when it occurs in the abdomen, leg, arm or hand Charlie horse – another name for a muscle spasm, specifically when it occurs in the calf or hamstring muscles of the leg Muscle twitch – also called a fasiculation or tic, is an uncontrolled fine, rapid and painless contraction of only a small part or isolated area of a larger muscle that can be seen contracting under the skin, often involving the eyelid, calf, thigh, or thumb, and often related to stress or anxiety   Muscle spasms and fibromyalgia The subject of muscle spasms is heavily searched on the internet.  This can be explained because muscles go into spasm, or involuntary contraction, for a wide variety of reasons. However, two very common and entirely different problems are the primary reasons people search the internet for help for the cause and relief of their tight and spastic muscles. The first group of people is made of those who have rather frequent spasm of muscles for no particular reason they can determine, as well as other strange complaints.  They usually do not have an explanation for their tight muscle knots until they dig deeper into a condition called fibromyalgia. The second group interested in learning about spasms of muscles is primarily engaged in heavy work or exercise, and wants to know what causes muscle spasms and how to stop them.  They can make sense out of the painful contractions once they make the connection between overwork and the dehydration and mineral loss it causes that can result in painful muscle cramps. Fibromyalgia as a cause of muscle spasm Fibromyalgia is a little understood syndrome whose mechanism of causing all its bizarre symptoms is still mired in controversy.  It primarily affects women over 30 years of age, although children display this syndrome as well as men of all ages. Until recently fibromyalgia was not thought to be a legitimate health problem, but more so an imaginary complaint of someone looking for attention.  Since the late 1980s fibromyalgia has been recognized as a non-life-threatening, chronic pain disorder with muscle spasms, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and tender areas located at certain parts of the body as the primary complaints.  It is a complex problem in which pain and spasms or even twitches can be experienced in all parts of the body in some suffers, or just in certain areas of the muscles around the joints of the neck, shoulders, back and buttocks in other sufferers. Because of the primary complaints of pain and spasm in muscles, fibromyalgia has been called muscular rheumatism and fibromyositis; it is the second most common problem seen by rheumatologists. Spasms of muscles and fibromyalgia The pain that is so typical of fibromyalgia is now commonly agreed to be due to uncontrolled contraction, or muscle spasm, of the muscle cells of the involved areas.  If spinal muscles in the low back and buttock are involved in an individual then low back pain will be reported; if muscles at the base of head are involved then headaches will be the complaint reported. Currently, three different cellular changes have been demonstrated in the muscles of the majority of people who have fibromyalgia: Changes in the mitochondria of the muscles cells Changes in the micro blood circulation of the affected muscle – such as fewer capillaries and constant constriction of the capillaries within the tissue where the painful muscle spasm is located Irregularity of the metabolism of the pain receptors that would result in greater pain sensitivity Any of these could explain muscle pain and contraction but when all are present the pain can be intense, yet difficult to detect the source of the pain and spasms. Of interest in understanding how fibromyalgia develops in a person, any muscle can be affected, but most often the central postural muscles (spine, thorax, abdomen and buttocks) are the most usual sites of pain and spasms. These postural muscles have an interesting function in the body in relation to all daily activity and all movement of the body, even though they do not provide a great amount of direct movement by themselves.  Their function happens to be essential to movement because they provide stabilization to central axis of the body so that movement can take place. This means that if we wish to move an arm or a leg, the core muscles will contract just a few milliseconds before the arm or leg muscles contract in order in order to prevent the body from being made unstable by the sudden movement of the limb.  Without this stabilizing effect of the central trunk muscles to prepare the body so it is ready to handle the additional leverage of an arm or leg sticking out away itself we would wobble, sway and perhaps fall over. Because they are so critical to maintaining the upright posture and not falling down every time an arm or leg is extended, they are called “postural muscles.” When someone with fibromyalgia is in pain the brain misinterprets the pain signals for reasons not yet understood and takes the pain message as a signal to contract these same postural muscles in preparation to move an arm or leg.  In this way the postural muscles of the trunk are being sent brain signals to stay in a state of constant contraction – or muscle spasm – night and day – for as long s there are pain signals being sent.  Producing this constant state of involuntary muscle contraction in one or more postural muscles wastes a lot of energy and explains the intense fatigue people with fibromyalgia feel. The … Continue reading Are my muscle spasms from fibromyalgia or something else? A doctor explains