Hand or foot spasms

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Definition

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

Alternative Names

Foot spasms; Carpopedal spasm; Spasms of the hands or feet; Hand spasm

Considerations

Symptoms depend on the cause. They may include:

  • Cramping
  • Muscle weakness
  • Numbness, tingling, or a "pins and needles" feeling
  • Twitching
  • Uncontrolled, purposeless, rapid motions

Nighttime leg cramps are common in the elderly.

Common Causes

Cramps or spasms in the muscles often have no clear cause.

Possible causes of hand or foot spasms include:

  • Brain disorders, such as,, 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

Home Care

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.

Call your health care provider if

If you notice recurrent spasms of your hands or feet, call your health care provider.

What to expect at your health care provider's office

The doctor or nurse will perform a physical exam and ask questions about your medical history and symptoms.

Blood and urine tests may be done. Tests may include:

References

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, Jazefowicz 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.

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 2/16/2012
  • Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, and Department of Anatomy at UCSF, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

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This page was last updated: April 14, 2014

         
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