Muscle twitching in the upper arm


Practically everyone notices muscle twitching in certain areas of the body from time to time, i.e. spontaneous, involuntary contractions of individual muscles or muscle groups. After the eyelids and legs, the upper arm is one of the most common places where muscle twitching occurs. As a rule, the muscle twitching can be classified as completely harmless and disappears by itself after a short time. In rare cases, however, the muscle twitches can also be caused by a serious neurological disorder.

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In the majority of cases, no specific cause for the muscle twitching can be identified and the symptoms will go away on their own within a short time. The most likely triggers in these cases are stress and emotional distress.
Tangible causes of muscle twitching in the upper arm essentially include herniated discs in the cervical area and MS (multiple sclerosis). By damaging the nerves responsible for the arm or their nerve sheaths, both diseases can trigger not only muscle twitching, but also other symptoms such as pain, tingling, numbness or paralysis. They can best be identified with the help of imaging examinations (especially MRI).
In addition, electrolyte imbalances are also possible causes of muscle twitching, above all a magnesium deficiency. This can usually be classified as harmless and very easy to remove. Such a deficiency can occur during pregnancy, for example.

Can muscle twitches be indicative of MS?

Theoretically, muscle twitching in the upper arm can also be a first indication of MS (multiple sclerosis), but only in the rarest of cases can such symptoms actually be traced back to MS.
Other causes are far more likely and should be investigated as a priority. At the beginning, MS is more likely to manifest itself in the form of temporary visual disturbances or sensory disturbances such as numbness or tingling of the skin. Muscle twitching can only occur in the late stages of MS, but by this time the diagnosis of MS has usually been made for a long time.

Read more on the subject at: multiple sclerosis

Can muscle twitches come through the cervical spine?

One possible cause of muscle twitching in the upper arm is herniated discs in the area of ​​the cervical spine. Parts of the intervertebral discs “slip” out of their intended place between the vertebral bodies forwards or to the side and can compress the spinal cord or nerve roots there.
Since the nerve tracts responsible for the arm emerge from the spinal cord in the cervical spine, a herniated disc in the cervical spine mainly leads to symptoms in the arms. In addition to tingling sensations or even symptoms of paralysis, these symptoms also include muscle twitching. In addition, pain in the upper arm and shoulder area often occurs, which those affected sometimes describe as "electrifying".

Read more on the subject at: Symptoms of a herniated disc of the cervical spine

How long do muscle twitches last?

The duration of the muscle twitching also depends primarily on the underlying cause. In most cases, no specific cause can or needs to be identified and the twitching will go away within a few days to weeks even without treatment.
In the case of a herniated disc, on the other hand, the symptoms usually increase steadily without treatment. Exercises to strengthen the neck muscles can provide temporary relief, but in most cases are only to be viewed as a bridging measure until an operation. The latter, on the other hand, often achieves a significant improvement or even a complete elimination of the muscle twitching immediately after waking up.
Read more on the subject at: How long is the duration of a herniated disc?
In MS, the muscle twitching usually occurs in bursts, just like the other symptoms, with the individual attacks usually lasting from a few days to several weeks. Regular use of the medication in the phases between attacks and the immediate initiation of cortisone shock therapy when a new attack occurs can significantly reduce the duration of the attack.


The optimal treatment for muscle twitching depends primarily on the cause of the discomfort.
The muscle twitching is often due to stress and psychological stress and then usually disappears by itself in phases of lower stress. Learning relaxation techniques and consciously reducing stress accelerate recovery.
Magnesium deficiency as a cause of muscle twitching can also be treated relatively easily and quickly: In addition to foods rich in magnesium such as nuts, bananas, whole grain products or spinach, magnesium tablets or powder are also available.
On the other hand, if a more serious disease can be identified as the cause of the muscle twitching, treatment of this underlying disease usually promises the best chances of healing for the muscle twitching. In most cases, a herniated disc is operated on, although the choice of surgical method depends on the size and location of the incident.
Read more on the subject at: Therapy of a herniated disc of the cervical spine
If MS is the cause of the symptoms, there are many therapeutic options that, although not yet curing the disease, can often improve its course considerably. These predominantly include drug procedures, including based on cortisone. In this way, the frequency and intensity of the muscle twitching can also be significantly reduced.
Read more on the subject at: Therapy of multiple sclerosis

Concomitant symptoms

Whether, and if so, what other symptoms accompany a muscle twitch in the upper arm, depends primarily on the cause of the symptoms. Conversely, any accompanying symptoms often provide an important indication of the underlying cause, which is why querying accompanying symptoms is an essential part of the diagnosis. As a rule of thumb, the following can apply: If the muscle twitching occurs in isolation, it can usually be assumed to be a harmless cause that does not require any further treatment. The presence of accompanying symptoms, however, suggests a cause that requires treatment.
If the muscle twitching in the upper arm is accompanied by pain, this is an indication of the presence of a herniated disc. The herniated intervertebral disc tissue presses on the nerve roots responsible for the upper arm and can cause pain and twitching, numbness, tingling sensations or even symptoms of paralysis.
A very rare but all the more serious cause of muscle twitching in the upper arm is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). In a relatively high proportion of sufferers, muscle twitching is one of the first symptoms, often accompanied by increasing gait uncertainty and impaired fine motor skills, i.e. the execution of fine movements such as e.g. the lacing of shoes. However, it should be emphasized that ALS is an extremely rare disease and muscle twitching can only be attributed to ALS in absolutely exceptional cases.

Pain as an accompanying syndrome

If there is pain in the upper arm or shoulder area in addition to the twitching of the muscles in the upper arm, this is a strong indication that a herniated disc in the cervical area is the cause of the complaint.The pain often comes from the neck and shoulders in the shoulder and upper arm and is described by many as "electrifying". Such a combination of muscle twitching and pain should result in a specialist examination as soon as possible. Too long hesitation can cause the herniated disc to grow and in the worst case result in a limitation of the surgical treatment options.

Tingling as an accompanying symptom

The common occurrence of muscle twitching and tingling in the upper arm is in principle to be classified as not particularly specific and generally as harmless. Under certain circumstances, however, it can still point out certain possible causes to the specialist.
For example, a herniated disc in the cervical area can trigger this combination of symptoms, but then there is usually additional pain in the neck, shoulder and upper arm. In the case of larger incidents, numbness or symptoms of paralysis can also occur. The pure combination of muscle twitching and tingling is more in line with MS, even if this is initially noticeable in the majority of those affected in the form of visual disturbances.


In the case of muscle twitching in the upper arm, the diagnostic complex deals with the search for the cause of the twitching. An important basis for this is a detailed and careful survey of the anamnesis (medical history) in the conversation between doctor and patient. The focus here is on determining which muscle groups are affected by the twitches, how often the symptoms occur and whether they are accompanied by other symptoms. The demand for existing secondary diseases (epilepsy, thyroid diseases) or pregnancy is also important for finding the cause.
As a rule, the specialist can estimate relatively precisely on the basis of the anamnesis whether a serious illness is the possible cause or whether the muscle twitching is to be classified as harmless. However, a physical examination will be performed afterwards. If anything is unclear, it may be necessary to use equipment, such as the measurement of the electrical muscle activity (EMG) or the measurement of the nerve conduction velocity (ENG) in the upper arm. If a herniated disc or MS is suspected, imaging or blood tests are also essential.