Easy, Healthy Ways to Prevent Muscle Spasms
Last updated: February 2023
MS patients commonly suffer from muscle spasms, which may involve sustained muscle contractions that are excruciatingly painful, or sudden, involuntary movements. The National MS Society advises that muscle spasms “must be treated on an individual basis” with an emphasis on the partnership between the patient and her healthcare team of physicians, nurses, and therapists.1
Treating muscle spasms with prescription medications
For many doctors, the go-to fix is prescription medication, which may include options such as Baclofen. The potential advantages of prescription meds are that they can be effective, small, and available as low-cost generics. Disadvantages include possible trial-and-error to determine which medication works for a specific patient and potential side effects that include dizziness, sleeplessness, and constipation.1,2
Alternative ways to manage muscle spasms
My wife is an MS patient who had long been taking a prescription medication to prevent spasms. She grew tired of the side effects and was wary of taking too many medications for various medical conditions. So, it was incumbent on both of us to research and discuss possible alternate ways to manage her painful muscle spasms.
Causes of muscle spasms
What causes muscle spasms? According to the Cleveland Clinic, causes can include:3
- Insufficient stretching before moving
- Muscle fatigue
- Exercising in heated temperatures
- Depletion of electrolytes
Gentle stretches and massages
Gently stretching and massaging the spasmodic muscle and applying heat or cold can provide relief. To prevent spasms, patients can do basic stretches every day.3 Some of these stretches are illustrated in a video that the MS Society of the UK has posted on YouTube.
The first four causes of spasms I listed do not apply to my wife. My wife is unable to engage in strenuous physical activity, avoids excessive heat, and drinks a lot of water every day to prevent kidney stones. So, we focused on the fifth cause of muscle spasms. We asked her neurologist if adding electrolytes to her diet might prevent muscle spasms and obviate the need to take prescription meds. Her physician enthusiastically endorsed the idea.
Increasing electrolyte intake
But what is the simplest way to increase the intake of electrolytes? There are a few options to increase our consumption of the key electrolytes: sodium, potassium, and magnesium.4 One option is to eat more foods containing these nutrients such as spinach and avocados. Other options include:
Pedialyte or sports drinks
The next option is to consume Pedialyte or sports drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade. The downside to this choice is that they can contain high levels of sugar or other sweeteners, as well as artificial color. And they don’t always include a variety of electrolytes.
The third and, as for us, most effective option was to drink electrolyte water. The inexpensive Great Value brand of electrolyte water sold at Walmart and the Trader Joe’s Electrolyte and Alkaline Water each did the trick. Since we do less shopping amid the pandemic, we also purchase an electrolyte concentrate, Buoy, online, and add it to filtered water or iced tea.
Please tell us how you have been able to prevent or reduce muscle spasms.
What does advocacy mean to you as someone living with multiple sclerosis? Please select all that apply: