Hey everybody, my name is Dr. Zach Shaw and I am with the Upper Cervical Spine Center. Today, we are going to talk about muscle spasms. Muscle spasms occur throughout the spine. They can occur in the neck, the upper back, or the lower back. What is a muscle spasm? Basically, a spasm is an abnormal, chronic contraction, or a constant contraction of a muscle. When you're in the gym working those muscles, the contraction of the muscle is what allows the weight to go up. An abnormal contraction is when this happens when we do not want it to. So, why is the spasm occurring?
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Every muscle in your body has what is called a stretch reflex. When a muscle gets stretched to the point where it is about to tear, the stretch reflex kicks in and contracts that muscle and keeps it contracted. This is a healthy mechanism. We want this to happen so the muscle does not tear, but problems still occur. We see lots of pain. We see antalgia, meaning the person is leaning away from that pain and walking abnormally. Maybe the person cannot even walk and they are bedridden because their spine literally won't let them get out of bed.
Now that we know what a muscle spasm is, we can now ask why that muscle stretches to the point where the stretch reflex needs to kick in? It is all due to asymmetry in the spine, or a lack of symmetry. This lack of symmetry is all due to structural changes. What happens is the spine starts to twist and turn in abnormal ways, causing the muscles on one side of the spine to be shorter, or contracted, and the other side to be stretched. Eventually, the stretched side gets stretched to the point where the stretch reflex kicks in, forcing the muscle to contract and spasm.
Now we know what a muscle spasm is and why it occurs, but where does the lack of symmetry come from? Why do the structural changes in the spine happen? It all happens at the top of the neck. Your brain has its own reflex, called the righting reflex, that forces the brain to always be level. However, when a misalignment occurs at the top of the neck, throwing the head off center, this takes your brain off-center. Now the righting reflex kicks in and because the body can't move this bone itself, the brain has to tell the spine to twist, contort, and contract in different ways to level the brain out.
What this looks like is a misalignment at the top of the neck may require the body to drop a shoulder to level the head, then raise a hip on that same side to keep the head and brain level. Over time, the compensations throughout the spine, due to the misalignment at the top of the neck, form weak spots. These weak spots are what turn into pain. These weak spots are what cause structural changes in the spine forcing one side to stretch too much, thus creating muscle spasms. Therefore, we have to get to the cause of those muscle spasms, which is not your lower neck or your back. Rather, the cause is at the top. If we can correct the top of the neck, allowing the brain to balance regularly, we do not need the compensations in the spine. The weaknesses in the spine heal and the muscle spasms go away. It really is that simple.
We can work on the lower spine and muscles as much as we want, and it may give you temporary relief, but it is never getting to the cause of your muscle spasms. If you want to get to the cause of your muscle spasms, you need to get checked by an upper cervical doctor today. Give our office a call at (704) 588-5560. We will be happy to do a free consultation to see if you have an upper cervical issue that may be causing those muscle spasms. If you are not in the Charlotte, North Carolina area, give our office a call anyway, and I promise we will find an upper cervical doctor as close to you as possible. I hope you learned something today. Let's get your atlas, or that top bone in the neck, checked. Have a great day.