Detailed guides to painful problems, treatments & more

Three common dubious ideas about spasm

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of PainScience.com: a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

You see these everywhere:

  • spasms are a major mechanism of pain, especially in the back and neck
  • spasm is often “protective” (muscle guarding or splinting)
  • there is a pain-spasm-pain vicious cycle

These ideas are repeated uncritically ad nauseum by clinicians and amateurs. Among the experts, there’s a long, erratic history of debate over almost zero data, fighting over scraps.

For many years I have declared these ideas to be myths or misleading half truths on PainScience.com. My contrarianism has been novel and interesting, but overconfident: it’s based only on my distrust of vague claims. They smell like myths … but I can’t actually refute them with good evidence. I can only point to warning signs that the claims are probably bogus.

Look for more updates on this topic in the near future, as I reboot what I have to say on the topic in this article: Cramps, Spasms, Tremors & Twitches.