What causes muscle twitching? Causes & treatment strategies

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Muscle twitching is an involuntary contraction of the muscles fibres. In most common cases, it's an outcome of muscle fatigue, but there are a few other causes to watch out for too that could be potentially dangerous for health.

So let's discuss and take a look at the top 3 things about Muscle Twitches.

Why is my muscle twitching?

A muscle twitch (technically known as myoclonus) occurs when your muscle involuntarily contracts and relaxes. But myoclonus refers to more than just muscle twitches. Hiccups, feeling startled and the way your body jerks as you drift off to sleep are also examples of myoclonus. In short, everyone has likely experienced some sort of myoclonus before.

What's happening when you have a muscle twitch is that, for some unknown reason, your brain is sending electrical signals to your muscles, making them contract involuntarily. While the actual reason for muscle twitches is unknown, they're often tied to other issues going on in your nervous system or muscular system.

Long story short, muscle twitches aren't considered medical issues in and of themselves, but they can be a sign of a larger medical issue. So now, let's go into some of the common causes of muscle twitching.

Common causes of muscle twitching

First, we are going to look into the common causes of muscle twitching. Minor twitching is usually less serious and results from lifestyle-related problems.

Common causes of muscle twitching

These are some of the common reasons for muscle twitching:

  • Rigorous physical activity could build up lactic acid in the muscles and can cause muscle twitching. Intense exercise usually affects arms, back and legs.
  • Muscles twitching due to anxiety or stress could affect any part of your body.
  • Vitamin deficiencies could cause muscle spasms in the hand, calves and eyelids.
  • Individuals who are on an intense training regime and use caffeinated products to boost their performance in the gym could also experience muscle spasms.
  • Dehydration is a very common factor for shaky muscles.
  • Use of nicotine and tobacco can also cause twitching in any muscle of the body.
  • Certain drugs like estrogen and corticosteroids can also trigger muscle twitching. 
  • More serious causes of muscle twitching
  • Muscle twitching could mean more than just a twitch in the eye. Some muscle spasms could be a symptom of a more serious issue. Muscle spasms resulting from a brain or spinal cord's malfunction could damage the nerves that are connected to those tissues.

Following are a few rare, but serious causes of muscle spasms:

  • Lou Gehrig's disease: Also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehrig's disease results in the death of the nerve cells, so that twitching is an outcome of the dying cells.
  • Muscular dystrophies: These are a set of inherited diseases that can cause muscle spasms in the neck, hips or face.
  • Isaac's syndrome: Frequent muscle twitching could occur in arms or legs from Isaac's syndrome.
  • Spinal muscular atrophy: Any damage to the cells in the spinal cord could lead to a loss of control over muscle movement. However, spinal muscle atrophy usually causes twitching in the legs or arms first.

Additionally, those with certain conditions are more prone to muscle twitches. These conditions include:

  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Head or spinal cord injuries
  • Kidney failure, liver failure or other organ failures
  • Neurological disorders
  • Seizure disorders

Muscle Twitches and Vitamin Deficiencies

As we've seen, one of the most common causes of muscle twitches is vitamin deficiency. To dive a little deeper, the three most common vitamin deficiencies that cause muscle twitches include calcium, vitamin D and magnesium deficiencies.

Calcium deficiency is also known as hypocalcemia and, although calcium is thought of in relation to bone health, it's also related to muscle twitches in the way it interacts with magnesium in the body (which we'll talk about more below). You can add more calcium to your diet by eating dairy products, soya beans, tofu, leafy greens and nuts.

Vitamin D deficiency can also play a role in causing muscle twitches. Your nerve cells need vitamin D to carry messages from your brain to your muscles, so it makes sense that without enough, your muscles would start to twitch and feel weak. You can get vitamin D from sun exposure.

Magnesium deficiency, also known as hypomagnesemia, can also cause muscle twitching as it plays a large role in keeping your nerves and muscles healthy. Magnesium helps to transfer calcium across the cell membrane to support your nerves and muscles. Magnesium deficiencies are common if you have a poor diet, if you drink too much alcohol or if you've recently experienced diarrhea.

How to treat muscle twitching?

How to treat muscle twitching

If you are training your body and if you don't have any of the aforementioned diseases, muscle spasms are the symptoms of a quality workout, but not necessarily. If you are an athlete who is on intense workouts and training, then muscle spasms are going to be normal for you. However, there are ways you could reduce the frequency of their occurrence.

By eating a balanced diet that includes fresh fruits, veggies, quality carbs and moderate proteins, you could help your body against involuntary muscle spasms.

Manage your stress using different relaxations techniques like yoga or meditation. By exercising regularly, you could also reduce cortisol levels in the body that leads to stress.

Get sleep around six to eight hours every night. Optimal sleep helps your body recover and heal faster.

If none of these more holistic treatments help with your muscle twitches, your doctor may suggest staying a safe distance from screens and flickering lights if your twitches are related to light sensitivity. You can also receive Botox injections for facial spasms or Clonazepam if you're dealing with epilepsy.

The point is that most muscle twitches are nothing to worry about and can be treated with a few simple lifestyle shifts. However, if you're worried that your muscle spasms don't seem to be going away, definitely see your GP.

When should I be worried about eye twitching?

Generally speaking, eye twitches are not something to worry too much about. Eye twitches are one of the most common types of muscle twitches that many people experience. Often, twitches in your eyelid signal a variety of causes including stress, smoking, wind, bright lights, excess caffeine intake, lack of sleep or an underlying eye issue.

If your eyelid is the only area that's twitching, you're probably just overstressed or feeling anxious and you could benefit from some relaxation. You might need to improve your sleep routine or cut back on the coffee.

However, if your eyelid is twitching in conjunction with other muscle twitches in your facial muscles, these might be signs of a deeper problem and you should get checked out by your GP or a physio.

All in all, eye twitches are normal and common. To treat or prevent them, you simply need to figure out what's causing the issue and taking care of it.

What is muscle twitching a sign of?

Muscle twitching can be a sign of lactic acid build-up, anxiety or stress, vitamin deficiencies, too much caffeine, dehydration, certain medications including corticosteroids, or more serious conditions like a spinal cord malfunction.

It's vitally important to get to the bottom of what your muscle twitching is a sign of so that you can more easily address the issue. In most cases, muscle twitches aren't much to worry about. But still, understanding what they could be a sign of is worth paying attention to.

If your muscle twitching is continuous or chronic, it's best to speak with your GP or a health professional to ensure it's nothing more serious. From there, you can better understand what steps will be best to take.

When should I worry about muscle twitching?

Most muscle twitching isn't serious. However, if your muscle twitches and spasms are a chronic or persistent issue, it's best to bring it up with your doctor.

It's important to address chronic muscle twitches because it could be a sign of more serious health issues including Lou Gherig's disease, muscular dystrophy, Isaac's syndrome, spinal muscular atrophy and more.

Keep in mind that anxiety and stress could be what's causing your muscle twitch, so do your best not to worry. Again, in most cases, muscle twitching is perfectly normal and there's likely nothing seriously wrong. However, if you do find yourself becoming exceptionally worried, make an appointment with a GP or physio to address any potential problems.

How do you stop muscle twitches?

How do you stop muscle twitches?

The best way to stop muscle twitches is by solving the root problem. Since there are quite a lot of reasons why you might be experiencing muscle twitches, fixing the problem can happen in many different ways. Let's go through them all.

If your muscle twitches are caused by a build-up of lactic acid in your muscles, you're probably also feeling sore from a workout. Usually, a little rest is all you need. You might opt to do some stretching and make sure you drink plenty of water to flush the lactic acid out of your muscles more quickly.

If your muscle twitches are a result of stress or anxiety, you may want to do some stress-relieving activities like having a bath, getting a massage, exercising or meditating. It's also important that you're getting enough sleep and doing your best to create more balance in your life so that you're less stressed and overwhelmed. For extreme anxiety, however, seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist can do a lot to help.

If your muscle twitches are due to a vitamin deficiency, you may need to adjust your diet or take supplements to help give your body the nutrients it needs. Often, magnesium offers a huge help for muscle twitches.

If your muscle twitches are from too much caffeine, it's obvious that you should lower your caffeine intake. And if they're from dehydration, make sure you're drinking enough water throughout the day and replenishing with electrolytes.

Overall, understanding what causes your muscle twitching is key to solving the issue. And from there, you can take steps to prevent muscles twitches in the future.

Is muscle twitching normal?

Yes, muscle twitching is normal. Although these involuntary spasms can be unsettling, they are normal and usually nothing to worry about whatsoever.

Yet, it's understandable if you're antsy to get to the bottom of your muscle twitches. So, it's best to speak with your GP or your physio to help you get answers. Before your appointment, make sure that you know:

  • When your muscle twitches began
  • Where the muscle twitching occurs
  • How often the muscle twitching occurs
  • How long each muscle twitch lasts
  • Any other symptoms you may be experiencing

From there, your doctor may give you some advice to follow but if necessary, you might also undergo a blood test to check your electrolyte levels for vitamin deficiencies as well as your thyroid for any hormonal issues. You might also get a CT scan, an MRI scan or an electromyography scan to check out the health of your nerves and cells.

Again, in most cases, muscle twitching is normal and goes away with a few simple adjustments. However, if you're consistently experiencing muscle twitches, it's important to get an expert opinion on the state of your health.

Additionally, your GP or physio can offer advice on how to prevent muscle twitches including dietary changes and helping you avoid as much lactic acid buildup after a workout.

Book an appointment at Physio Inq to talk about muscle twitching. Whether you're worried that your muscle twitches are a sign of something more serious or you're sick of muscle twitches disturbing your everyday routines, a physio can help.

Come see us at one of our convenient locations throughout Australia or allow our Mobile Services to come to you. Book in today!

 

This article was originally written by Jonathan Moody from Physio Inq

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