Spasms are contractions of the muscles of the hands, thumbs, feet, or toes. Spasms are usually brief, but they can be severe and painful.
See also: Muscle cramps
Foot spasms; Carpopedal spasm; Spasms of the hands or feet
Cramps or spasms in the muscles often have no clear cause.
Possible causes of hand or foot spasms include:
- Brain disorders, such asparkinson's disease,multiple sclerosis, dystonia, and Huntington's disease.
- Chronic kidney disease and dialysis
- Damage to a single nerve or nerve group (mononeuropathy) or multiple nerves (polyneuropathy) that are connected to muscles
- Dehydration (not having enough fluids in your body)
- Disorders or injuries that involve peripheral nerves
- Heavy exercise
Hyperventilation (overbreathing), which is rapid or deep breathing that can occur with anxiety or panic
- Increased levels of phosphate in the body
Muscle cramps, usually caused by overuse during sports or work activity
- Pregnancy, more often during the third trimester
- Reduced levels of magnesium or calcium in the body
- Thyroid disorders
- Too little vitamin D
- Use of certain medications
If vitamin D deficiency is the cause, supplemental vitamin D should be taken under the doctor's direction. Calcium supplements may also help.
There are stretching exercises you can do. These stretches will help keep your muscles from getting shorter or tighter.
Being active will also help keep your muscles loose. Aerobic exercise, especially swimming, and strength building exercises are both helpful. Playing games and sports and doing daily tasks may also help, but can also make matters worse if done to excess.
Drinking plenty of fluids during exercise is also important.
If you notice recurrent spasms of your hands or feet, call your health care provider.
Your provider will obtain your medical history and will perform a physical examination. Laboratory testing of blood and urine may also be done.
Medical history questions documenting hand or foot spasms in detail may include the following:
- Do the spasms appear to be involuntary or purposeless?
- Are they prolonged?
- At what age did the spasms first appear?
- Does the presence of spasms seem variable over weeks to months?
- Do spasms occur repeatedly (recurrent)?
- Do several spasms occur in a row (repetitive)?
- Are the spasms slow or rapid?
- Can the spasms be voluntarily suppressed?
- How long have you had spasms?
- Is it worse when you exercise?
- How much calcium-containing food do you eat (such as milk products)?
- What have you done to try to treat the spasms? How effective was it?
- What other symptoms do you have?
- Do you have numbness or a "pins and needles" feeling?
- Do you have muscle weakness?
- Do you have fatigue?
- Do you have muscle cramps elsewhere?
- Do you have seizures?
Tests may include the following:
Depending on the cause, the following symptoms may be present:
- Numbness, tingling, or a "pins and needles" feeling
- Uncontrolled, purposeless, rapid motions
Nighttime leg cramps are common in the elderly.
Khoshknabi DS. Muscle spasms. In: Walsh D, Caraceni AT, Fainsinger R, et al, eds. Palliative Medicine. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2008:chap 168.
Griggs RC, JÃ³zefowicz RF, Aminoff MJ. Approach to the patient with neurologic disease. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 418.
Review Date: 3/22/2010
Reviewed By: Daniel C. Hoch, PhD, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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