On and off, ten second, back muscle spasms that last for days.


Q: For the last 10 years I experience a problem with a muscle that painfully spasms in my back every two years or so. The spasm will happen repeatedly every ten seconds on and off sending a shock wave of pain through my body (like a torture treatment) and lasts 12-24 hrs. When it stops the area is sore from the spasm. There is no apparent reason why it happens. In the latest episode when one spasm stops a new one starts about 12 hours later in a different spot of the back and is now lasting 6 days. Need ideas on to prevent this or make it stop. Thank you.


A:    Muscle cramps are extremely common, and nearly everyone experiences a cramp at some time in their life. Cramps are common in adults and become increasingly frequent with aging. However, children also experience cramps. Any of the muscles that are under our voluntary control (skeletal muscles) can cramp. Cramps of the extremities, especially the legs and feet, and most particularly the calf (the classic "charley horse"), are very common. Muscle cramps are felt to be caused by excessively excited nerves that stimulate the muscles. This can occur particularly after injury to nerve and/or muscle; dehydration with low blood levels of calcium, magnesium, or potassium; from certain medications; and even at rest. The primary treatment of muscle cramps involves methods to relax the affected muscle. This typically involves stretching, massage, and heat application. Other treatments are directed toward the underlying cause of the muscle cramps and can include rehydration, electrolyte repletion, hormone treatment, calcium supplementation. Most cramps can be stopped if the involved muscle can be stretched. Gently massaging the muscle will often help it to relax, as will applying warmth from a heating pad or hot soak. If the cramp is associated with fluid loss, as is often the case with vigorous physical activity, fluid and electrolyte (especially sodium and potassium) replacement is essential. Medicines are not generally needed to treat an ordinary cramp that is active since most cramps subside spontaneously before enough medicine would be absorbed to even have an effect.

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