What Causes Muscle Twitching?

Although muscle twitches are very common, they are not very well understood. Nearly everyone has experienced them. Muscle twitches occur spontaneously in well over 90 percent of people at one time or another. And, they can be quite annoying!

What causes Muscle Twitching?

Muscle twitches are small involuntary movements involving small areas of muscle or muscle fibers. These twitches often go unnoticed, and when you do feel them, they tend to feel worse and more noticeable than they actually are. The most common type of muscle twitches are “fasciculations.” Fasciculations can occur in any muscle in the body, but they tend to occur most noticeably in the arms, legs and the eyelids.

Muscle twitches are usually harmless and are more of an irritation than a cause for concern. In most cases they disappear shortly after they appear or when the underlying cause is identified. In some rare cases, however, muscle twitching can be a sign of a neurological disorder.

Common Causes of Muscle Twitching

There is a wide range of conditions that can cause muscle twitching. In general, more severe muscle twitching results from serious causes. Minor twitching results from less serious lifestyle-related causes.

The common, less serious causes of muscle twitching include:

-exercise
-stress and anxiety
-excessive caffeine intake and other stimulants
-nutritional deficiencies (magnesium, etc)
-smoking
-irritation of the eyelids or surface of your eye (dry eyes)
-reactions to medications (diuretics, corticosteroids, stimulants, and estrogen)
-lack of sleep and fatigue
-dehydration

Anxiety and Stress

Anxiety and stress are perhaps the number one cause of muscle twitching, a condition known as benign fasciculation syndrome. Benign means the muscle twitching will not develop into anything serious. Fasciculation is the medical term for muscle twitching. Syndrome means that typically, a lot of muscle twitching is also accompanied by muscle cramps, muscle aches and some tingling.

Our bodies are under attack on a daily basis due to stressors such as: job stress, paying bills, protecting teens from drugs and sex, marital problems, traffic jams, business meetings, etc. It’s no wonder that our muscles are always jumping. When we are under chronic stress, our muscles twitch because they think that at any moment, action will be required of them. Basically, the stress hormones that are released during times of increased stress and anxiety cause the muscles to twitch. It’s just that simple.

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Often, twitching caused by these factors occurs in your eyelids, calves, or thumbs. This condition is fairly common, and symptoms usually go away after a couple of days.

Other Causes of Muscle Twitching
There are also less common but more serious causes of muscle twitching. These medical conditions and illnesses are often related to your nervous system. They may damage the nerves connected to your muscles, leading to twitching.

Some of these conditions include:

-Muscular Dystrophy
-Multiple sclerosis (MS)
-Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)/Lou Gehrig’s disease (a disease that causes your nerve cells to die)
-Spinal muscular atrophy
-Isaac’s syndrome (an autoimmune disorder affecting the nerves)
-any trauma to a nerve leading to a muscle
muscle wasting or weakness (myopathy)

Call your health care provider if you have long-term or persistent muscle twitches or if twitching occurs with weakness or loss of muscle. You may have an underlying medical condition that is causing these sensations.

Preventing Muscle Twitching
There is no definitive way to prevent muscle twitching. However, there are some simple things you can do to decrease its occurrence.

Eat a balanced diet, including a wide range of fruits and vegetables. This may help prevent some nutritional deficiencies linked to muscle twitching.

You should also avoid drinking caffeinated beverages or eating foods containing caffeine (chocolate). These foods and drinks may increase or promote twitching. Also, remember to drink plenty of water.

It is a good idea to stop smoking, since nicotine is a mild stimulant that affects the central nervous system.

Talk to your doctor if you are on a stimulant medication, such as Adderall, and develop twitching. Your doctor may be able to prescribe another medication that will not lead to twitching.

You can also learn and use coping skills, such as deep breathing exercises, to decrease your stress levels.

Sources:

Muscle Twitching. (2012, February 5). National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health. Retrieved December 1, 2014, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003296.htm

Eye Twitching. (2010, October 9). Mayo Clinic.Retrieved Nov. 30, 2014, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/eye-twitching/MY00102/DSECTION=causes

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