Muscle twitching, also known as muscle fasciculation, is an involuntary contraction of the fibres that make up a muscle. Muscles consist of fibres controlled by a nerve. Stimulation or damage to a nerve causes the muscle to contract, resulting in a twitch.
Most of the causes of muscle twitches are harmless. However, some are more serious as they may indicate an underlying nervous system condition.
Minor causes of muscle twitching
There are various reasons why your muscle may be twitching. Take a look at some of them below.
Overexertion of the muscle
Intense physical exercise for a prolonged period of time can cause twitching of the muscle. That can be as a result of the accumulation of lactic acid in the muscle used during the exercise or through the loss of an electrolyte (electrolyte imbalance) caused by sweating. The most worked muscles are most likely to twitch. These may include the calf, thigh, or biceps, depending on the exercise.
Consumption of certain stimulants in excess
Caffeine or nicotine found in cigarettes and other tobacco products can cause the muscle in any part of the body to twitch.
Psychological stress and high anxiety
These can result in excess tension in the muscles which, in turn, lead to muscle twitching. We also refer to muscle twitching caused by stress and anxiety as “nervous ticks”. They can affect any muscle in the body.
Not drinking enough leads to dehydration which causes muscle twitching or contraction.
Having deficiencies of certain vitamins such as vitamin D can cause muscle weakness and twitching. Vitamin D is necessary for the development and maintenance of healthy bones. Other deficiencies include Vitamin C and calcium. Calcium is needed for proper muscle function and magnesium, which plays a role in keeping the nerves and muscles healthy.
Lack of sleep affects how neurotransmitter receptor function. That, in turn, results in muscle twitching (usually around the eye as a result of tiredness). Muscle spasms can occur in the eyelid or the area around the eye when the eyelid or the surface of the eye is irritated.
Side effects of medication
Side effects of certain drugs can lead to involuntary muscle twitching. It is best to discuss side effects and drug interactions with your doctor when taking a new medication.
Major causes of muscle twitches
Most muscle twitching is as a result of minor or common conditions and is no cause for concern. However, some muscle twitches can be an indication of an underlying health condition or nervous system disorders. Health conditions that can lead to muscle twitching include the following.
Radiculopathy refers to a set of conditions in which one or more nerves are affected and do not work properly resulting in pain, numbness or difficulty controlling specific muscles. It is also known as a pinched spinal nerve.
Muscular dystrophies are a group of diseases that results in increasing weakness or breakdown of muscles over time.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
Also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS is a specific disease that causes the death of neurons controlling voluntary muscles. It is characterised by stiff muscles, muscle twitches and gradually worsening weakness due to muscles decreasing in size. Over time, a person with ALS may lose the ability to control their movements including walking, talking, swallowing and breathing.
Also known as neuromyotonia, this is a rare neuromuscular disorder. It is a result of overactive peripheral nerve axons that continuously activate muscle fibres, resulting in frequent muscle twitching.
Other rare cases that can cause muscle twitching include Lupus and Multiple sclerosis.
- Preventing muscle twitches.
- Muscle twitching is not totally preventable. However, it can easily be resolved through certain lifestyle changes. There are some things that you can do to lower your risk. Take a look at some of them below.
- Eat a balanced diet including fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Get adequate sleep.
- Reduce the intake of caffeine and avoid smoking or taking a substance with nicotine.
- Avoid and manage stress through relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation etc.
- Exercise moderately with proper warm-ups.
- Stay hydrated.
- Take dietary supplements to treat deficiencies.
Muscle twitches are usually not a cause for alarm. However, if your twitching becomes chronic or persistent, it is best to visit your doctor as soon as possible.