How to Treat a Muscle Spasm

Written by jennifer claerr
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At times you may experience pain and immobility in your back, neck or shoulders upon waking or after an ordinary movement. If you haven't done anything strenuous recently, the pain may be the result of a muscle spasm rather than a pull or strain. Yoga is particularly useful for treating muscle spasms. However, do not attempt to stretch your aching muscle if the pain is severe. Instead, rest and apply ice to the area. Wait until the acute pain subsides before moving on to gentle stretching exercises. If you experience a severe pain at any time, stop stretching immediately and contact your doctor.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


  1. 1

    Lie on the floor in Savasana, the corpse posture. Lie on your back with your arms and legs spread comfortably out at your sides. Avoid couches and beds, which tend only to contribute to muscle spasms. Breathe deeply and allow your body to relax. Focus your mind on the breath. Remain here, consciously relaxing, for up to a minute.

  2. 2

    Stay on the floor and draw your arms over your head. Be very conscious of your body's sensations. If you feel pain or constriction, modify the yoga posture to accommodate it. Allow your arms to remain resting on the floor over your head for at least 30 seconds.

  3. 3

    Release your arms to your sides. Raise one knee into your chest and clasp it with your arms. Take your left knee in your right hand and very slowly, very gently rotate your knee and torso to the right. Only go as far as you feel comfortable. Breathe. Be aware of your body and its reactions. Do not go beyond any feeling of constriction that you feel in your muscles. Breathe. If you feel able, repeat this twist on the other side.

  4. 4

    Bring your knees slowly and gradually into your chest. Roll over onto your left side. Push yourself up gently with your arms and come into a seated position.

  5. 5

    Turn your head slowly and gently to the right. Stop at any strong feeling of pain or constriction. Remain in this posture for at least 30 seconds. Turn your head carefully to the left. Hold again for 30 seconds or more. Repeat these motions until you begin to feel the pain dissipating and mobility returning.

  6. 6

    Clasp your hands behind your back. Slowly, gradually begin to raise them upward until you feel a stretch in the shoulders. Raise them only as high as you feel is comfortable. Hold this posture for around 30 seconds.

  7. 7

    Place a chair in front of you. Place your hands or elbows on the seat, whichever feels more comfortable. Lean your body forward until it is parallel to the floor. Adjust your body as necessary. You should feel a powerful stretch in the shoulders, but it should not be sharply painful. At this point the muscle spasm should be slowly but surely unwinding.

  8. 8

    Come to a standing position. Slowly begin to bend over. Go down only as far as feels comfortable. Hang here, breathing deeply, for up to a minute.

  9. 9

    Repeat the stretching exercises as necessary throughout the day, and on subsequent days. Muscle spasms can be stubborn. They can release only to return later after activities that contribute to tension, such as standing, sitting and sleeping.

  10. 10

    Work on strengthening the back, neck and shoulders. This will help to prevent muscle spasms from occurring again in the future. Yoga postures such as Plank and Down Dog are helpful for building strength in this area, as is lifting lighter weights. Consult a doctor and/or trainer to see which exercises are best for you.

Tips and warnings

  • Check the Yoga Journal website in Resources for tips on releasing muscle spasms in other parts of the body.
  • Do not overextend your body. If your pain is severe or persistent, call your doctor immediately.

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