In order to produce movement, a muscle has to contract (shorten). When the movement is completed, the muscle relaxes, and returns to its original length. All this takes very little time, though the contraction and relaxation may be constantly repeated, especially when we consider the muscles that form our internal organs (the smooth muscles).

In abnormal conditions a muscle may contract but fail to return to its relaxed condition afterwards. The muscle is then said to be in spasm. Spasm can affect both the smooth muscles and the voluntary muscles which move our limbs and body, and it is always painful. Possible causes of muscle spasm include poor blood supply to the area, deficiency of sodium or other elements in the blood, fatigue, excessive exercise or injury, but very often the cause of a spasm is not known. Stress often seems to be a factor.

Essential oils which relieve spasm in the smooth muscles, include Bergamot, Camomile, Clary Sage, Fennel, Juniper, Lavender, Marjoram and Rosemary, and the most effective way to use them is in hot compresses over the affected organ. Gentle massage over the area is another good method.

Spasm in the external, voluntary muscles is best helped by massaging as deeply as possible around the painful area. Always 'warm up' the area with some more gentle, surface massage and friction before attempting any deeper pressure. Good oils to use include Black Pepper, Lavender, Marjoram and Rosemary. Both the action of the oils themselves and the physical effect of the massage will bring increased circulation to the area which is usually sufficient to release the spasm.

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