Nothing like a good ol’ spastic muscle (especially those eye twitches) to annoy and distract you throughout the day. Normally we have control of muscle movement, but muscle twitches are completely involuntary.
Thankfully, twitches don’t last long and there are ways to prevent them from happening again.
There are many reasons behind that pesky twitch and some are more serious than others. Here’s what could be going on.
You’re tired after exercising, and so are you muscles. Your muscles can get fatigued which results in twitches and cramps in overworked muscle fibers.
Research also shows that electrolyte imbalance after a sweat sesh can impact muscle contractions. Therefore, any loss in electrolytes could trigger muscle twitching.
The muscle that is the most worked is likely going to be the one that starts twitching. This could range from your arms all the way down to your legs, depending on the exercise.
After a stressful situation, your body can feel pretty tense. Anxiety can release neurotransmitters to tell your muscles to move when it’s not even necessary.
Heavy breathing also tends to come along with feelings of stress or anxiety (aka hyperventilation). This can drop the levels of carbon dioxide in your blood and create muscle twitches. You’ll likely notice these twitches occurring in your hands and feet.
Too much caffeine
That morning cup of joe can get you going in the a.m., but it can also send too much energy to your muscles.
Caffeine can actually change the concentrations of energy our body creates. Drink too much and you can create abnormalities in nerves and muscles that lead to twitching. This can affect any muscle in your body.
Not enough sleep
Notice your eyelids going on a twitching spree after a late night? Your brain relies on neurotransmitters to send and receive messages to your nerves that control muscle movement. When you don’t get enough Zzz’s, those neurotransmitters aren’t on their A-game. This leads to muscle twitching.
Lack of nutrients
You need to get out in the sunshine to boost that vitamin D. Your nerves need this vitamin in order to take messages back and forth from the brain to your muscles. You’ll likely find the twitches happening in your eyelids, calves, and hands.
Not enough vitamin B typically leads to eye twitching.
Calcium deficiency is referred to as hypocalcemia. With this condition comes “neuromuscular irritability” which causes muscle twitches due to the lack of calcium levels in the blood. Your legs or arms may start twitching from this.
Magnesium helps to transport that calcium for nerves and muscle function. If you don’t have enough magnesium (aka hypomagnesemia) you might also be hurting your calcium levels. You could get twitches anywhere in the body, even in your face, with this deficiency.
Our muscles can contain up to 75 percent water, and it’s needed to carry nutrients and minerals to our muscles to function properly. Your larger muscles (think: legs, arms, and torso) will be most affected by dehydrated muscle twitches.
It doesn’t matter if you smoke or chew tobacco, if it gets in your bloodstream it’s going to affect your muscle movements.
Nicotine binds to receptors in the brain that maintain heart rate, alertness, and movement. This is where those muscle twitches come into play. You may notice most twitches will occur in the legs but they happen anywhere.
Reaction to meds
All medications are going to come with side effects, but certain meds can trigger muscle spasms. Specific medications include corticosteroids (used to treat conditions such as asthma, skin conditions, and autoimmune disease) as well as estrogen pills.
If you suspect the medication you’re on is the culprit to your twitches, contact your doctor. You’ll likely feel twitching in your hands, arms, or legs.
Maybe you made a wrong move or went too hard with an exercise. Now a nerve is pinched and you’re feeling the consequences.
Along with a muscle twitch, you may also notice that you have a tingling or numbing sensation where the nerve is pinched. Your range of motion may also be limited.
There is not a cure for multiple sclerosis (MS), and severity can vary among individuals. MS attacks the protective barrier that covers your nerves and creates issues with communication between the brain and the rest of your body. Over time, nerves can become completely damaged or deteriorated.
Nerves affected by MS can vary widely, so keep an eye on a constant twitch in the same area.
With this autoimmune disease, your body attacks healthy tissue and organs by mistake. Twitching from this condition is less common, but if you’re noticing twitches along with the following symptoms you may want to consider visiting your doc:
- joint pain and stiffness
- skin lesions that get worse when in the sun
- fingers and toes that turn blue when cold or during stressful times
- rashes on face or elsewhere on the body
This condition is rare, but is characterized by muscle stiffness, continuous muscle twitches, and decreased reflexes.
These symptoms will occur throughout the day and even during sleep. All muscles can be affected, including your throat muscles, which could impact your speech and breathing.
Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS)
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) — “A” means no, “Myo” means muscle, and “Trophic” means nourishment. Put it together and it means “no muscle nourishment.” If your muscles aren’t getting the nutrients it needs, they’re going to start wasting away.
This disease mainly affects nerve cells you’ll find in the brain and spinal cord, which creates the inability of the brain to control muscle movement.
Our kidneys are our filtration system, getting all the waste out of our bodies and disposing of them in the toilet. Kidney disease means that they aren’t functioning to their full capability and that creates a buildup of waste that would normally be removed.
Too much waste can damage muscles and nerves creating weakness, cramps, pain, and twitches. You may also feel tingling sensations in your arms and legs.
Your nerves can get damaged with this condition and it typically starts with your hands and feet. With the damaged nerves comes lack of communication when it comes to movement.
With neuropathy you’re also going to feel numbness, tingling, and weakness in the affected area. It’s pretty common — about 25 to 30 percent of Americans are affected, with older individuals at increased risk.
If the twitching is severe enough (or caused by a serious condition), it may need to be treated by medication or other medical intervention. Depending on what’s exactly going on, you may be prescribed:
- corticosteroids (lowers inflammation in the body)
- muscle relaxants (relieves discomfort of muscle cramps and spasms)
- neuromuscular blockers (pretty potent muscle relaxers that prevent muscle movement)
Sometimes it’s inevitable that you’ll get muscle twitches, but there are a few things you can try out to lower the odds that it continues to happen.
Eating lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and protein is going to benefit you in more ways than one. Keeping your diet balanced will ensure that you’re consuming a variety of vitamins and minerals and prevent any deficiencies.
Get enough Zzz’s
That wicked eye twitch? Yeah, that could be because you’re not sleeping enough. You should aim to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
Caffeine is known to give you the jitters, especially if you’re more sensitive to it. Mayo Clinic notes that a safe amount of caffeine to drink each day is up to 400 milligrams. For reference, that’s the caffeine amount in about 4 cups of brewed coffee.
Cut out the cigs
Smoking is not a good habit to have in general. Nicotine can affect your central nervous system since it’s a mild stimulant. Quitting won’t only prevent muscle twitches, but can also lower your risk for many other health problems.
If you’re on a medication that’s a stimulant and you notice that your muscles begin to twitch, see your doc. They will be able to prescribe another medication where you do not get that side effect.
If the twitching doesn’t stop, or keeps happening, it’s time to make an appointment with your doctor. At the appointment your doctor will likely ask a handful of questions regarding your twitches to understand what may be going on.
The questions may include:
- When did the twitching start?
- Where are the twitches?
- How long do the twitches last?
- How often do the twitches occur?
- Any other symptoms that have come along?
Be prepared for a physical examination and bring any known medical history with you. If things seem serious, your doctor may run certain tests to really dive in deeper.
Some tests could include:
- blood tests for electrolyte levels and thyroid function
- MRI scan
- CT scan
- electromyography, which assesses muscles and the nerve cells that are in control of them
Diagnosis and treatment is the key in getting chronic twitches to stop, so be sure not to hesitate to see the doc if the twitching starts to get out of control!
Odds are your muscle twitches are happening due to things within your control. Leading a healthy lifestyle with lots of water, a balanced diet, a good night’s rest, and no tobacco can save you the burden of having to deal with a day full of involuntary movement.
It’s always OK to be extra careful and see your doctor. If the twitches seem intense, painful, or very frequent — definitely see your doctor! An underlying condition could be to blame for your muscle twitches.