Spasms are sudden contractions that are involuntary and are often accompanied by some degree of pain and discomfort. This process of involuntary contraction can be triggered by a number of different factors, including a medical condition such as a disease or infection, a circulation problem, or some type of chemical imbalance that has an adverse effect on the function of muscles and other tissue. In general, spasms are divided into three categories: tics, cramps, and convulsions.
The tic is easily the most benign of all types of spasmodic activity. Most people think of tics as being a minor inconvenience that is usually manifested as eye spasms. However, a tic can also occur as spasm in the muscles of the shoulder, or a sudden jerking motion of the leg. Twitching of this type can often occur due when the individual is exhausted or under a great deal of stress, two conditions that can have an impact on the function of the central nervous system. Getting proper rest and minimizing stress will often cause spasm activity of this type to subside quickly.
A more involved example of spasms is the cramp. Unlike tics, cramps tend to last for an extended period of time and can be very painful. A leg cramp may cause the muscles to become rigid for several minutes or even longer. Often, decreased circulation is the underlying cause for this type of muscle spasm. The situation can also be triggered by lower levels of potassium in the body, causing the muscles to contract. A balanced diet and massage can help to relieve the pain of cramps and also minimize the frequency of spasms of this type.
The convulsion is the most painful and the most serious of all types of spasms. Convulsions are often intense and extremely painful. In some cases, a convulsion can be so intense that the individual goes into a seizure, eventually passing out. The convulsion can take the form of esophageal spasms, effectively cutting off the air supply of the individual. Diseases such as epilepsy and diabetes can trigger the incidence of spasms of this nature. Identifying the underlying health condition and effectively treating that condition will in turn help to lessen the potential for a convulsion.
While it is not unusual for people to experience spasms in the form of tics or twitches from time to time, any incidence of cramps or convulsions should be reported to a physician immediately. Because some of the underlying causes associated with the more severe spasm types, quick treatment may not only eliminate the contractions but also make it possible to treat a health issue before it can become life threatening.