Is Your Fibromyalgia Causing Muscle Spasms?

Do you sometimes have muscles that tighten up and won't relax no matter what you do? That's called a muscle spasm, and a lot of people with fibromyalgia have this problem. In fact, some researchers consider it a major source of our pain.

Man holding his lower leg in pain
Jan-Otto / Getty Images

Spasms are different from muscle twitches, which are brief and usually painless. When a muscle spasms, it clenches tight and stays that way.

Spasms can be painful for anyone, and they're worse for those with fibromyalgia because of a symptom called hyperalgesia, which is the name for the way our nervous systems amplify pain signals.

What Causes Our Muscle Spasm?

We don't have a lot of research on why muscle spasms are involved in fibromyalgia. However, at least one study (Ge) suggests that our spasms are caused by myofascial trigger points.

Myofascial trigger points (TrPs) are ropy bands of tissue that form when soft tissue injuries (like a sprain or strain) don't heal properly. A condition called myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) can develop in someone with multiple active trigger points. MPS is extremely common in people with fibromyalgia and some healthcare providers believe they're actually the same condition.

TrPs feel like hard nodules under your skin and are usually about the size of a pencil eraser. It hurts when you push on them. More important though, is that TrPs cause referred pain, which is a pain in another area of your body. For example, a TrP on the muscle running up the side of your neck can cause pain on the top of your head as well as what feels like sinus pain under your eyes.

In the Ge study, researchers were able to reproduce fibromyalgia muscle pain—those seemingly random pains that crop up in areas where nothing is wrong with the tissues—by manipulating TrPs. They concluded that TrPs caused muscle spasms which were largely responsible for fibromyalgia pain.

Of course, a single study is never conclusive. Our muscle spasms could also be caused by other things, such as our overactive nerves, nutrients deficiencies or any number of other things.

Treating Muscle Spasms

Muscle spasms can be hard to get rid of, so, fortunately, we have a lot of options.

Things you can try at home include:

  • Heat, ice, or alternating between the two
  • Topical pain medications like Aspercreme, Tiger Balm, or BioFreeze
  • Relaxation/meditation
  • Gentle stretching/yoga
  • Epsom salt baths
  • Self-massage
  • Rest

Nutritionally, several things are believed to help with muscle pain. While they generally haven't been studied specifically for fibromyalgia, foods, and supplements that may help include:

  • Magnesium and malic acid (separately or together, as magnesium malate)
  • Potassium-rich foods such as dates, bananas, apricots, cantaloupe, grapefruit, peas, beans, potatoes, fish, and beef liver
  • Calcium (because cells need twice as much calcium to relax a muscle as they do to tighten one)
  • Vitamin D (which tends to be deficient in fibromyalgia.)

Healthcare providers also have a variety of tools for helping relax tight muscles, such as:

  • Trigger-point injections
  • Acupuncture (which is one of the preferred treatments for TrPs)
  • Therapeutic massage, chiropractic, and other manual therapies
  • Physical therapy
  • Prescription anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxers

A 2002 study (Gur) suggested that low-level laser therapy may help alleviate the muscle spasms, and the pain they cause, in fibromyalgia. Several subsequent studies of this treatment have also been positive, although not all of them looked specifically at the impact on muscle spasms.

Lifestyle Changes

You might also be able to make changes in your lifestyle to help alleviate or avoid muscle spasms. These could include:

  • Making your workstation more ergonomic
  • Improving your posture
  • Changing where or how you sit to watch TV
  • Finding a pillow that gives you better support
  • Wearing good shoes or insoles

It can pay to really examine your habits and see what things you do that may aggravate your muscles and make simple changes. If you need help fixing your posture, you may want to talk to your healthcare provider about physical therapy.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Sluka KA, Clauw DJ. Neurobiology of fibromyalgia and chronic widespread pain. Neuroscience. 2016;338:114-129. doi:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2016.06.006

  3. Doraisamy MA, Anshul . Effect of latent myofascial trigger points on strength measurements of the upper trapezius: a case-controlled trial. Physiother Can. 2011;63(4):405-9. doi:10.3138/ptc.2010-27

  4. Jafri MS. Mechanisms of myofascial pain. Int Sch Res Notices. 2014;2014. doi:10.1155/2014/523924

  5. Gür A, Karakoç M, Nas K, Cevik R, Saraç J, Demir E. Efficacy of low power laser therapy in fibromyalgia: a single-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Lasers Med Sci. 2002;17(1):57-61. doi:10.1007/s10103-002-8267-4

Additional Reading

By Adrienne Dellwo
Adrienne Dellwo is an experienced journalist who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and has written extensively on the topic.