What to do if your client has a muscle spasm during a massage

If it hasn’t happened to you already, it will. You are giving a relaxing  massage and your client’s breath is taken away by the sudden pain of a muscle cramp. You spring into action and quickly guide your client in a way that stops the charley horse in its tracks. Here is a quick and easy fail proof technique to stop a spasm.

  1. Take your hands off the client.
  2. Ask the client where the cramp is.
  3. Have the client contract the opposite muscle or muscle group from the muscle that is in spasm.
  4. Have the client hold the contraction of the antagonist muscle until the spasm has stopped.

If there is time left in the session, continue the massage. Avoid the area that was in spasm. The muscle needs time to rest and recuperate. Refrain from stretching, compressing, or manipulating the muscle. Any work in that area could cause the muscle to spasm again.

At the end of the session, ask your client about how much water they had that day. Chances are, they are dehydrated. If they were well hydrated, a nutritional deficiency or possibly a medication side effect could be the culprit. Stay within your scope of practice and refer out as needed. Do not dabble in nutrition if you are not qualified to do so.

If the muscle cramp was due to overuse, like from an intense athletic activity – encourage your client to rest in addition to hydration.

If a client has a spasm on your table, it is a great opportunity to educate them on the wonders of reciprocal inhibition. Antagonist, or opposite, muscles cannot contract at the same time (example – the biceps and the triceps). Knowing this and a little anatomy can allow your client to take action if they have a spasm, even if it happens outside of your presence.

Check out the video above for examples of how to execute cramp management for a spasm in the low back and the calf.

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