Massage techniques

Massage Technique for Removing a Muscle Spasm

Max. D Gray
By Max. D Gray. Updated: March 25, 2022
Massage Technique for Removing a Muscle Spasm

Muscle spasms can be incredibly painful. They occur due to the contraction of a particular muscle in our body. Often, they are only small spasms, like the kind you might experience around your eye when you are overtired. However, if they are a particular severe spasm they can cause a significant amount of pain and can even be reoccurring. If these spasms continue, you can often find the area where the spasm originates. If this is somewhere which can be reached over the skin, massage can be the perfect thing to get rid of knots, nerve damage or whatever the trigger points for your spasms are. oneHOWTWO has the right massage technique for removing muscle spasm, hopefully for good.

You'll need:

  • Towels.
  • Cream or lotion.
  • Massage bed or bed.
You may also be interested in: What To Do After A Deep Tissue Massage

Steps to follow:


What are muscle spasms?

As we said, muscle spasms are contractions of the muscle which cause pain, but where do they come from? Often they are from some form of exertion, but the environment in which the actions are taken can also cause muscles to contract. However, we are not exactly sure why these spasms occur during exercise[1]. Here are some of the perceived causes:

  • Overexertion: when working out or performing a strenuous task such as lifting something heavy, we can overwork our muscles. This is believed to contract them suddenly and often results in a painful spasm.
  • Lack of preparation: our bodies can take a lot of punishment, running marathons, working on a construction site all day, etc. However, if we don't warm up our muscles before physical exertion we can overdo them more easily and cause spasm.
  • Not cooling down: a rapid cool down after exercise can also cause our muscles to go into spasm.
  • Dehydration: if we don't hydrate with enough water and electrolytes, our muscles are more prone to spasm.
  • Exercising in heat: we might be hydrated enough for a normal environment, but if the place in which we exercise is too hot, we might overdo it more easily which can result in spasm.
  • Poor circulation: blood flow is extremely important in all parts of our body. It brings oxygen and other much needed elements so that they can function properly, including our muscles. If we have poor circulation, muscles can spasm even without exercise.

This article refers to spasm in our muscles, but there are other types of spasm such as those in our internal organs. If you are experiencing any of these spasms, it could be due to something very serious. Make a doctor's appointment if you are experiencing any of these types of spasm.


What are trigger points?

While there is some debate over the cause of muscle spasms, no one denies their existence. They can cause a lot of pain in different parts of our body. The different locations of this pain are often known as trigger points. They are the point at which pain is triggered and you can even sometimes see the muscles spasming underneath the skin.

Trigger points (fully name myofascial trigger points) can be almost imperceptible sometimes, even if the pain is acute. However, often we feel them as hard 'knots' in the muscle tissue itself. When the muscle fibers tauten, they constrict to the point they become nodules of bound up tissue, like a knotted piece of fabric.

When pressure is applied to these trigger points, we often feel something called a local twitch. A local twitch often feels similar to a spasm, but is technically different as it does not involve the contraction of the whole muscle.

There are many different types of treatment for this pain, but there is little consensus as to what is the most effective. Some people go to see a chiropractor, there are even some ideas about applying electrical current to the are via an electrical neurotransmitter[2]. However, massage has been known to have a great effect on the well being of an individual suffering from muscle spasms. It may be a course of treatment which needs to be taken with other treatment, but this is why it is important if you are feeling acute pain to see a doctor about it. They will be able to diagnose whether or not an underlying condition is the cause of the pain.

If you have minor aches and pains which are caused by overexerting your skeletal muscles, here is how you can reduce the pain and ease out the knots:


Preparing for a massage

Before you start, you should make sure you are relaxed. While overheating can cause muscles to cramp, if you warm up your body first you will help get it relaxed. Do so by taking a warm shower or bath. Massage can be a painful process, so making sure you are as relaxed as possible before you start is ideal.

Another important thing to remember, is that you will need someone to help you if your pain is on your back. If you have been having spams in your thighs or arms, you can do some of these practices yourself, but ideally someone else should do these techniques (you can always return the favor). This way, you can concentrate on relaxing.

After you have prepared with a warm shower, you should lay down on a massage table if you have one. If not, a bed or couch will work, but make sure it is as comfortable as possible and try to keep your spine as straight as possible. If you lie down for too long while your spine is misaligned, it can cause further back pain.

Choose a massage oil or cream to use on your skin, one which can hydrate and be good for the skin as well as the muscle underneath. We have advice on the 10 best massage oils so that you can choose your favorite.


Massage techniques for getting rid of spasm

Help your massage assistant by telling them where you are feeling the most pain or where you think the trigger points or spasms are. They can feel around and should be able to know where the knots are by touch.

How much pressure the person exerts to relieve your muscle spasm is important. If they push too hard, they might end up causing more spasms later on. Massages should provide a little pain as it can be tough to work out the knots in the muscle fiber and tissue. If you go really down into the knots, it is known as a deep tissue massage. However, deep tissue massage should only really be done by a professional so that potential damage is limited.

Swedish massage is usually a better idea for this type of spasm relief. It can be gentle or vigorous, but it is ideal to warm up the muscles, increase blood flow and reduce tension. The best types of movement for Swedish massage to get rid of spasm are:

  • Kneading: perhaps the best way to get rid of muscle spasms is to use this technique. Like you might knead lumps of flour out of bread dough (although not quite as vigorous), you find the trigger points and knead around it with your fingertips. Squeeze the muscle and loosen the fibers, kneading and rubbing so that the knot is eased out. You can often feel the muscle tissue relax and the knots lessen.
  • Effleurage: this is when you use long strokes which glide along the back. Place your hands palm side down on the back and glide them up, putting pressure on your fingers so that they go into the different curvatures of the muscles. You are trying to get the tension spread out across the muscles, so keep your hands flat and spread them out evenly.
  • Friction: this involves rubbing the area of the muscle spasm across the top and helping to ease it out. Be careful of rubbing the skin too hard, you do not want to cause a friction burn. Your use of massage oil, should be helping to prevent this anyway.

There are other techniques involved in Sweish massage, but these are the best for getting rid of muscle spasms. If while kneading the person carrying out the massage notices areas which are more tense due to muscle spasms, they need to exert a little more pressure when pressing down. You can also clamp down with your thumb and forefinger for about a minute, slowly kneading the knot in circular movements.

The amount of force you use should be firm, but not damaging. The person being massaged should help the one massaging by informing them of how it feels. It should be painful, but not necessarily uncomfortable. While you may wince a little with a particularly bad trigger point, when the pressure is removed, you should start to feel a little relief. Even if it is still painful, it should be a 'good pain' sensation. If you feel battered and manhandled, then it's likley not enough restraint was exercised.

Massage Technique for Removing a Muscle Spasm - Step 4

Repeat the above actions as long as required. Some may need a little more time depending on the severity of the knots. However, the overall experience should be a relaxing and stress reducing one. Don't overdo it.

If you are getting a massage in return for a trade, you can change positions and do the same as they have done to you. However, ideally, you should do it in different sessions. Massaging, especially for long periods of time, can be draining. A better idea is to relax and help prevent the muscle spasms from returning.

Don't get up too quickly otherwise you might feel dizzy, especially if the massage has done its job.

If you want to know more about how to deal with muscle spasms and back pain, we recommend reading this article on how to make a hot compress for muscle pain.

This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Massage Technique for Removing a Muscle Spasm, we recommend you visit our Healthy living category.




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1 comment
Nora Moore
That's a good idea to take a warm shower before the massage. That always relaxes me and the more relaxed you are, the more the massage can work for you. Is there a particular type of cream or oil that is recommended for this kind of massage?
OneHowTo Editor
Hi Nora, As a matter of fact there are several, Juniper for example is great to stimulate the circulatory system. Take a look at our article for the full list:
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Massage Technique for Removing a Muscle Spasm