What Is Muscle Twitching?
Muscle twitching, also known as muscle fasciculation, is marked by small muscle contractions in the body.
Your muscles are composed of fibers, tissues, and nerves. When a nerve is stimulated or damaged, it may cause your muscle fibers to twitch.
Many twitches experienced in your body are common and may go unnoticed. However, other types of twitching may be a sign of a nervous system condition and should be checked out by your doctor.
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:
- stress and anxiety
- caffeine and other stimulants
- nutritional deficiencies
- irritation of the eyelids or surface of your eye
- reaction to drugs, such as corticosteroids, stimulants, and estrogen
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.
There are also less common and 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
- Lou Gehrig’s disease (a rare 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
While muscle twitching is typically not an emergency, it may be linked to some serious medical conditions. Make an appointment with your doctor if your twitching becomes a chronic or persistent issue.
Addressing and Easing Symptoms
If home care treatments do not stop or lessen the frequency of your twitching, see your doctor. You may have an underlying medical condition that is causing these sensations.
Home Health Options
Typically, home remedies are not necessary for muscle twitching, as this condition usually goes away on its own within a few days. However, you can prevent twitching by eating a balanced diet, getting adequate sleep, managing your stress, and limiting your caffeine intake.
If you have considerable eye twitching, try applying eyes drops to lubricate your eyes. If your twitching lasts for more than a week, see your doctor about your symptoms.
Getting a Diagnosis
Your doctor will probably review all of your symptoms to determine the underlying cause of your muscle twitching. He or she will also do a medical exam and gather your medical history. He or she may ask you about the frequency and duration of your twitching and the specific muscle areas affected. Your doctor may also want to know about any other health conditions, such as if you are pregnant.
Depending on your symptoms and physical exam, your doctor may order blood tests to look at your electrolyte levels and the functioning of your thyroid gland. You may also need a CT scan (a series of X-rays taken at specific body angles) or an electromyogram (a test checking the health of your muscles and nerves). An MRI scan that looks at your brain or spine may also help your doctor to come to a diagnosis.
Outlook of Muscle Twitching
If you have persistent and chronic muscle twitching, a serious underlying medical condition may be the cause. Early intervention can often improve your long-term outlook and treatment options.
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. These foods and drinks may increase or promote twitching.
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 an amphetamine, 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.