Muscle The elastic tissue of the body which consists of fibers organized into bands (fibrils) and bundles (fascicles) that contract to cause the body to move. There are three types of muscle in the body. Muscle which is responsible for moving extremities (arms, legs etc.) is called "skeletal muscle", the heart muscle is called "cardiac muscle" and the muscle in the walls of arteries and bowels (digestive tract) is called "smooth muscle."
Muscle cramp When a muscle suddenly and painfully contracts. This is often due to being overworked or as a result of a chemical or neurological imbalance. Muscles use sodium and potassium to enable contraction so an upset in the levels of these natural chemicals can make the muscles contract spontaneously. This is the reason for eating a sodium tablet or bananas to prevent cramping. Another reason for a cramp may be an imbalance of the nerve stimulation to a muscle. When specific muscles are used intensively for long periods of time, the nerves controlling the muscle become very active and even when resting the heightened nerve activity can send a signal to make a muscle contract. Most cramps are easily treatable and you should consult your doctor to determine the exact cause.
Muscle fibers A muscle fiber is a single cell of muscle. When they are bundled together, they form muscles. A muscle fiber contains many myofibrils, which are cylinders of muscle proteins. These proteins allow a muscle cell to contract.
Muscle spasm When the body experiences a trauma such as a small tear in muscle fiber from continuous overuse, the body responds with a muscle spasm. Muscle spasms are knots of muscles in a state of tension and they usually start at a specific point of aggravation. The spasm is accompanied with an inflammation which tries to heal the damage. They should not be confused with muscle cramps.
Muscle strain Working a muscle beyond its normal capacity which may stretch or tear the muscle tissue. It can result in pain, limitation of mobility and/or swelling. A rapidly growing proportion of computer uses are beginning to experience the effects of muscle strain caused by extended periods of typing and mousing. See 'What is RSI' for more on muscle strain.
Muscle tension Occurs when a muscle remains in a partial state of contraction generally as a result of overuse. Hours of continuous typing, for example, leads to a build up of tension which can remain in the muscles. Excessive muscle tension will have a strongly negative impact on muscle strength, efficiency, endurance and flexibility. Tight muscles are one of the first signs of a developing RSI. Detecting tension early and treating it effectively is the best way to prevent repetitive strain injuries from developing. Read more about how Desk Doctor detects and treats excessive muscle tension.
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