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Muscle Spasms
A Physical Effect of Stress 

Muscle spasms are something that cannot be seen by the naked eye or an x-ray which makes it difficult to diagnose.

This does not mean the pain and discomfort it causes the person is not very real. It is very real and can affect their daily lives.  Muscle spasms can  make it difficult to carry out even the simplest task.

A spasm is caused when the muscle tense up and becomes hard and locked in position.

Imagine you are sitting at your desk and you are feeling stressed and tired. You tend to hold your shoulders up around your ears tensing the neck muscles. If this tension in the neck muscles continues for a long enough period of time, the muscles lock up and go into spasm.

Muscle spasms can be caused by many things such as:

  • improper physical activity
  • lack of exercise
  • poor nutrition
  • and one of the main causes is stress

Why Does Stress Cause Spasms?

It is thought that stress disturbs the nerves which control the constriction of the muscles which in turn cause the spasms. It can also effect the coordination of the different muscle groups.

Under normal circumstances all your muscles work together to ensure that your body is balanced. However stress can affect this coordination and so the muscles work against each other and this in turn causes muscles spasms.

Stress can also increase our perception of the pain we feel. We begin to fear pain and we start to worry that it will never end. These worries increase our anxiety and again we begin to hold our bodies incorrectly and cause tension which in turn is likely to cause muscle spasms.

This is a vicious cycle of pain -> fear -> stress ->pain

How To Prevent Muscle Spasms Caused By Stress

As with everything that is caused by stress, the best way to prevent it from happening again is to tackle the root cause, the stress itself. Eliminating stressful situations of course is the best option but this is not always possible and so we have to manage the stress in our lives so that we cope with it better.

There are many stress relief techniques and coping strategies mentioned on this site and incorporating these into your daily lives will reduce the impact of stress both physically and mentally.

There are certain things which can be done to help reduce the likelihood of muscle spasms and muscle tension directly, such as:

  • Keep as active as possible. This will help to keep you flexible and your muscles strong. Exercise in general has its own benefits for reducing stress.
  • Practice good posture in your daily routines. Sitting in a chair or a desk bent over a computer will increase tension in the muscles. Carrying bags incorrectly or not lifting objects in the right way will also increase the likelihood of muscle spasms.

Muscle Relaxation Exercise

When you do find yourself with muscle tension it is best to do something about it sooner rather than later before it has a chance to develop. Follow this short muscle relaxing exercise as soon as you are able to find some quite time for yourself during your day.

  • Remove shoes and wear loose clothing
  • Lie on the floor or on a firm bed with your head supported by a pillow.
  • Close your eyes and focus on your breathing for a few minutes, allowing yourself to clear your mind and allowing your muscles to become loose.
  • Now tense the muscles in your right foot, pointing it away from you and hold for a few seconds then release.
  • Repeat this process tensing different muscles up your leg one at a time. Then move on to your left leg and repeat.
  • Now tense your right hand, hold for a few seconds and release. Then do the same for the whole arm. Now repeat with your left hand and arm.
  • Now tense your buttock muscles hold and then release.
  • Now bring both shoulders up to around your ears, hold for a few seconds and now release.
  • Now shake out your hands to let go of any remaining tension there.
  • Wriggle your toes and turn your ankles to release any remaining tension.
  • Now lie still for a few more minutes, focusing on your breathing and allowing your body to feel heavy and completely relaxed.

Tip: This progressive muscle relaxation can also be carried out in a comfortable chair while you are working in the office.

This method provides total physical relaxation to your entire body, which is not present in our normal daily lives. It also helps to clear the mind. It gives us time out from life’s stresses and allows us to take care of our physical and mental well-being in just a few short minutes.

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