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Severe Muscle Spasms

A month ago my grandma began having severe muscle spasms on her left side only. Her limbs seem to have a mind of their own - when her arm spasms it looks like she's making a feeble attempt to swim backstroke. Her shoulder rotates up and backwards, and her arm follows but only extends about halfway. This happens on/off during the day, and even when she sleeps which wakes her up. Certain times it calms down, but once it starts it doesn't stop for a while and the movements occur continually every 1-2sec. She has seen two neurologists but they don't have any ideas.

She recently had a heart valve replaced, but the spasms began about 1.5 weeks before the surgery. One neurologist thought there was a lack of oxygen to her brain due to the bad heart valve, but her new valve is perfect and this problem still persists. They also thought it might be shingles since she had rashes/blotches, but they didn't behave like shingle breakouts would. Her neurologist said she should see a muscle specialist, but there are no openings until June.

She had an MRI and CATscan, but they haven't shown anything. If my mom places her hand on my grandma’s arm while lying down the spasms almost stop completely. Its only a gentle touch, which makes me wonder if signals aren't being sent to her brain and thus the brain is trying to "wake her up”. We have tried putting 1.5lb arm weights on her arm and that helps only slightly.

She was on anxiety meds where an uncommon side effect is muscle twitches, but the side effect only occurred in less than 1% of people, and they weren't as extreme.  She is no longer on that medication as of a few weeks ago.

The spasms don’t cause her pain, but they are very inconvenient. She can’t walk or do anything on her own because the arm/leg spasms make her nearly fall over. She has been prescribed Klonopin which calms it down, but it also puts her to sleep. It’s good so she can sleep, but continuously taking Klonopin and sleeping doesn't improve her quality of life.
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1613542 tn?1366468543
Really late on response but maybe it will help someone else. Yes the test showed nerve damage and the spasm were cause by my nerves over reacting to the damage, basically they were misfiring. In my case herniated disc that crushed my spinal cord caused the damage but in many cases it can just be a pinched nerve that suddenly gets signal. The spasms got better with time but on really bad days I use the Valium. Valium only works because it is a nerve medication, it soothes the nerve. Muscle relaxants really do nothing for the nerve pain or spasms. I have started getting soft tissue therapy that helps. Best of luck.
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Avatar universal
Thanks for your response!!!  So the Nerve Conduction Test found there was nerve damage which was causing your legs to kick out?  Do you know what caused the damage?  Did the spasms begin to go away with time, or is it only "better" because of the Valium?  Is there no other way to help it other than muscle relaxants?
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1613542 tn?1366468543
I don't know what the problem is but it kind of sounds like a issue with her nerves in her arm. This can be from several different things. She should maybe see about getting a Nerve Conduction Test done to see how her nerves are working. I have nerve damage and it caused uncontrollable muscle spasms. It was in my legs and would make them kick out for no reason. I would have to walk until they stopped and sometimes even that would not work. Or they would be so bad I was unable to move I would just lay in bed and kick. I hope she finds out soon I know it can be a pain in the butt not knowing what is wrong and having no control. My spasms are better now and I am able to control them with Valium which calms the nerves down. Best wishes, Sissie  There is also a chart on my profile that you may find helpful. It is the first picture. It is a nerve conduction chart. It may show what nerve is causing the problems if it is a nerve problem.
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