Muscle twitches are called twitches and can be divided into two different types.
On the one hand, there is the activation of muscle fibers, which do not lead to any movement in the body, but only to localized tension in the muscle tissue.
They are known as fasciculations and are often described as "tremors" of the skin.
On the other hand, there are convulsions that can be recognized as movement from outside. In the latter, not just a few muscle fibers, but entire muscle bundles are usually tense.
As a rule, a twitch describes an uncontrollable action of the body.
The contraction (tension) of the muscle tissue can be triggered by the supplying nerve, but also by errors at the level of the muscle cells.
Most people have experienced twitching in their own body at some point.
These are brief muscle movements that often cannot be seen from the outside.
They only become disturbing when the muscle contractions occur repeatedly or develop into cramps.
In the majority of cases, twitching has no disease value or is only caused by imbalances in the water and electrolyte balance (body salts).
Magnesium deficiency is probably the most common reason.
Pinched nerves or circulatory disorders can also lead to twitching.
This can be counteracted by adequate exercise and a healthy, balanced diet.
Physical or emotional stress is also an important trigger for twitching ("nervous twitching").
If the twitching occurs for the first time after taking a new drug, an undesirable drug effect should always be excluded and the drug should be changed if necessary.
Diseases in which twitching is a symptom mainly affect the nervous system or impair the function of the muscle cells. Examples are neurological diseases such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis or tic disorders, but also metabolic disorders, thyroid disorders or the side effects of drug abuse.
Overall, however, it can be said that non-disease twitches occur significantly more frequently than symptomatic muscle twitches.
Read about this too: Cause of cramps, symptoms of stress
Concomitant symptoms of twitching
Accompanying symptoms occur with twitching especially if they recur frequently or persist for a long period of time.
The patient's psyche plays the most important role.
Even if the muscle movements are usually not recognizable from the outside, the impression is given to the person concerned. This can lead to nervousness and difficulty concentrating, which can affect work and social life.
There is also the possibility that the muscle contractions will not resolve and develop into very painful cramps. As a symptom of a disease, twitching is accompanied by many other symptoms and plays a rather unspecific role.
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Duration of twitching
The duration of muscle twitching depends on various factors.
For example, the cause, individual conditions and underlying diseases play a role.
As a rule, muscle twitching without any disease value usually lasts only a few seconds. In rare cases, the duration can be a few minutes.
These occasional, very short-lived muscle twitches are usually harmless and painless.
If the muscle twitches are neurological or toxic, the twitches can be painful and long-lasting.
In various diseases, muscle twitching can occur more frequently, last longer and in some cases even persist.
In these cases, a medical examination and appropriate treatment are required.
For example, during an epileptic seizure, the muscle twitching can last up to about 2 minutes.
If the muscle twitching caused by an epileptic fit lasts longer than 30 minutes, it is called status epilepticus in medical terminology. This is an emergency and needs immediate medical attention. This condition is life threatening. The duration of the attack correlates with the severity of the irreversible death of nerve cells.
In other words, the longer an epileptic seizure lasts, the greater the risk that permanent, unpredictable consequential damage can result.
Therefore, the ultimate goal is to stop the seizure as quickly as possible.
Read more about this at: Childhood epilepsy and symptoms of epilepsy
Treatment options for twitching
The choice of treatment options depends on the cause of the twitching.
In the case of short, harmless jerks that are not based on a disease, usually no treatment is required, as the jerks will decrease on their own.
In the case of twitching caused by stress, a lifestyle modification with a reduction in stress can be effective.
Various relaxation techniques can be used, such as
- autogenic training,
- Jacobson's progressive muscle relaxation
and many other methods will be helpful.
In addition, a balanced diet rich in vitamins and nutrients as well as avoiding coffee and alcohol can help reduce twitching.
If there is a causal vitamin or mineral deficiency, these must be substituted.
If underlying underlying diseases are responsible for the twitching, appropriate therapy is required.
In addition, some sufferers find supportive homeopathic treatment soothing. In addition, behavioral and possibly psychotherapeutic measures can have a supportive effect. If manifest tic disorders or epilepsy are present, drug treatment is often required.
For chronic tic disorders that last longer than 1 year, different medications are sometimes indicated. However, tic disorder should only be treated with drugs if all other non-drug treatment options have not been and are not successful.
In individual cases, tiapride / sulpiride, risperidone, clonidine, olanzapine, quetiapine, haloperidol and sometimes ropinirole can be recommended.
Occasionally, a decrease in tic disorder was observed after deep brain stimulation.
The treatment of epilepsy depends on the type of epilepsy, individual factors, and the drug and dose setting requires a doctor's sensitivity. Various medications are available.
Roughly, one can say that the first choice drugs for focal epilepsy are now lamotrigine and levetiracetam. The second choice is valproic acid.
In generalized epilepsy, the first choice drug is valproic acid and the second choice drug is carbamazepine and phenytoin.
In status epilepticus, the benzodiazepine midozolam is often administered transnasally or intramuscularly. If this treatment does not work, barbiturates are used as an alternative.
Read more about this under: Drugs for Epilepsy
Homeopathy for twitching
In some cases, additional homeopathic treatment for twitching may be recommended.
The choice of remedy depends on the symptoms, causes and individual circumstances.
Agaricus muscarius, Kalium phosphoricum or Stramonium are often used.
- Agaricus muscarius is said to help against twitching and restlessness.
- Kalium phosphoricum is often recommended for headaches, exhaustion, burnout and associated twitching.
- Stramonium is usually administered for twitching that occurs in the context of various extreme psychological states.
All three homeopathic remedies are usually used in potencies D6 - D12.
At best, the use should be discussed with a doctor.
Twitching of the face
The face is our personal figurehead in contact with other people. Twitches in the face are therefore perceived as particularly annoying and can massively unsettle and restrict the person concerned.
As a reflection of our emotional wellbeing, stress and psychological problems can cause facial twitches.
Everyone reacts differently to emotional stress and processes it in their own way. The psyche can therefore also be reflected in physical symptoms, such as twitching of the face. The eyelid is particularly often affected by the so-called "nervous twitching".
As a rule, however, this is not a sign that requires treatment, but merely an accompanying symptom that disappears when the psychological problem is overcome. In addition to emotional stress in the form of everyday and interpersonal problems, stress can also have physical effects.
Sleep and mood worsen with persistent stress, which negatively affects his ability to cope with the situation - a vicious circle is created. In addition to symptoms such as insomnia, indigestion, or headaches, facial twitching is another sign of excessive stress. The patient's body is on constant alert, the nervous system in a state of hyperexcitability.
In addition to the stressful situations already described, twitching in the face can also be a symptom of a tic disorder. This is a neurological-psychiatric clinical picture in which the patient involuntarily makes sudden movements (motor tics) or produces sounds (vocal tics) that have no specific purpose. In the case of motor tics, a distinction can be made between simple (e.g. winking or frowning) and complex (e.g. jumping movements, body rotation) movements. The simple tics are most likely to affect the face.
The differential diagnoses (other diagnoses) for facial twitching also include blepharospasm (eyelid cramp), oromandibular dystonia, hemifacial spasm and the special facial tic disorder.
The tic disorders that occur in childhood occupy a special position. Approximately one in four children will have a temporary tic disorder during their development. In the vast majority of cases, however, these do not require treatment, as they regress on their own after a short time - a few days to weeks. The cause is most likely to be found in the changes that take place during brain development.
Read the article on this: Twitching of the face
Twitching in the eye
Eye twitches usually refer to movements of the eyelid. Even if it is an annoying phenomenon, in the majority of cases there is no serious illness.
The causes are very diverse and range from disturbances in the electrolyte balance to stressful situations and rare neurological diseases.
By far the most common is a stressful situation.
Stress can arise on a psychological level due to emotional problems or insufficient opportunities for relaxation, but also on a physical level when there is great exertion or illness. If the cause is psychological, one likes to speak of a "nervous twitch" which can occur depending on the situation. The nervous system is in constant "alert" and in a state of overexcitability. Spontaneous activations then occur, which are reflected in the same convulsions.
If the body begins to go crazy from existing stress, this should be a clear warning sign for the person concerned.
In order to counteract a further increase in stress and the development of a mental illness such as burnout syndrome or depression, stress must be reduced and conscious relaxation must be ensured. The twitches in the eye can also lead to concentration problems and - if they occur in the evening - sleep problems. Both of these worsen the patient's mental state. Headaches often accompany this.
Read more about this: How can you reduce stress?
In addition to the stress factor, the electrolyte balance has a significant influence on nerve activity and the cell balance in muscle tissue.
If the body lacks sodium, potassium, chloride, or magnesium, twitching may occur. These deficiency states can arise in a wide variety of ways: for example, through increased excretion (increased sweating, gastrointestinal diseases) or reduced absorption (with permanently excessive alcohol consumption or alcohol dependence).
Please also read the articles: Eye twitching - what are the causes ?, eyebrow twitching - is that dangerous?
Twitching in the ear
Muscle twitching in the ear can also be provoked. This affects either the muscles near the ear, such as the palate muscles, or small muscles that are located directly in the ear.
These twitches often cause noises in the ear. This can occur to varying degrees. The causes of the ear twitching can be physical or psychological stress, compressed nerves, circulatory disorders or magnesium deficiency.
Diseases such as epilepsy, Huntington's disease or Parkinson's disease separately cause a twitch in the ear.
Treatment depends on the cause.
Twitching of the lip
A muscle twitch in the lip can be caused by different triggers.
The causes are similar to the causes of muscle twitching that are localized in other parts of the body.
The twitching is often harmless and does not require treatment. In addition, hypocalcemia in particular can cause lip twitching. This means that the level of calcium in the blood is too low. This can, among other things, cause lip twitching on the face.
The low calcium level may be related to an underactive parathyroid gland. In addition, a calcium deficiency results in a magnesium deficiency.
Various underlying diseases can also cause lip twitching.
Therapy depends on the cause.
Twitching in the leg
In the leg, twitches usually occur sporadically as benign muscle contractions without any disease value.
In some cases, however, they can also be a symptom of a wide variety of diseases. The most common harmless cause is electrolyte fluctuations, which affect the cellular balance of muscle tissue. Especially when falling asleep, when the body enters sleep from the waking state, the leg twitches.
The center in the brain, which is responsible for relaxing the muscles during sleep, is activated during this period, which probably leads to the twitching. The exact process behind the night twitches is still unknown.
Also read the article: Jerks when falling asleep and jerks during sleep
Leg twitches are largely summarized as restless legs syndrome. This translates as "restless legs". About 5-10% of the population are affected. The incidence of restless legs syndrome increases with age.
The causes can be manifold. One differentiates an acquired from an unknown (idiopathic) cause of the twitching in the leg.
Certain deficiencies, such as magnesium and iron deficiency, can cause the symptoms. But diseases such as Parkinson's disease, kidney weakness, rheumatic diseases and certain drugs can also trigger the muscle twitches.
In addition, the twitching in the leg can be the result of overload reactions. If the cause is unknown, however, there is often a genetic predisposition. The pathomechanism of restless legs syndrome is not yet fully understood. A disturbance in the transmission of stimuli in the nerves is postulated. It is also known that the body's own messenger substance dopamine plays a major role.
Further details are controversially discussed. The discomfort is often described as tingling, pulling, and twitching of the legs. Some people also experience these symptoms in their arms. When the legs are moved, the twitches go away.
The symptoms mainly occur at rest, i.e. in the evening and at night. The disease leads to sleep problems and often has to be stopped with medication.
A special group of patients in restless leg syndrome is the group of pregnant women.
About a quarter of expectant mothers suffer from the disease during their pregnancy. The main problem here is that the pregnant women cannot relax sufficiently as a result and additional stress arises.
In addition, common medication may or should not be used during pregnancy in order not to endanger the growing child. The syndrome usually goes away after delivery.
Further information can also be found at:
- Twitching in the leg
- I recognize a magnesium deficiency by these symptoms
- Iron deficiency
Muscle twitching in the knee
Muscle twitching in the knee can have many causes.
For example, too little sleep, physical or psychological overload, stress, hypothermia, hypoglycaemia, certain medications, circulatory disorders and magnesium or potassium deficiency can all imply twitching in the knee.
In addition, febrile seizures, multiple sclerosis, Tourette's syndrome and diabetes mellitus can provoke an involuntary, permanent or temporary knee twitch. Treatment depends on the cause.
Read more on the subject under: Tourette Syndrome
Twitching in the abdomen
The muscles of the abdomen can also cause twitching here due to various causes. Mostly these are contractions without any disease value, which are only an expression of electrolyte fluctuations or slight deficiencies (e.g. of magnesium). Deficiency states of this kind can occur more frequently during pregnancy due to the increased need for nutrients, which is why a balanced and adequate diet is very important. The expectant mother not only has to take care of her own body, but also that of the growing child, which in part means an increase in the need for various nutrients and electrolytes by over 30%.
Muscle twitching differs significantly from the feeling that child movements trigger in the mother. The baby's first movements can be felt around the 18th week of pregnancy. Any twitching can occur earlier. Among other things, they differ in that muscle twitching occurs superficially and the child's movements come from inside the abdomen.
In men, the cause of twitching in the abdomen is also the electrolyte balance or, less often, a neurological disease. Basically, deficiencies should first be determined and compensated for before starting the time-consuming and nerve-wracking search for an illness. Since men do weight training more often, intensive muscle training is also a possible cause of twitching and cramps in the abdominal muscles. Here, too, it is important to keep calm and give your stomach a break.
Also read the article: twitching in the abdomen
Twitching in the abdomen
Twitching can also occur in the abdomen. In most cases it is harmless and has no disease value.
Possible causes are, for example, stress, deficiencies, in particular a magnesium deficiency, overexertion of the lower abdominal muscles and adhesions in the abdominal cavity.
Magnesium deficiency can occur especially after pregnancy, after long-term use of the contraceptive pill and after extreme exercise.
People often describe the lower abdomen muscle twitching as a twitch, tremor, or flutter.
The symptoms can vary in severity and sometimes be very unpleasant. Some sufferers report that the symptoms can be felt for about 10 minutes every now and then during the day.
If the symptoms appear frequently, persist or cause uncertainties, a doctor should be consulted. This can accordingly exclude underlying diseases that could be related and, if necessary, initiate adequate treatment.
Twitching of the thumb
Twitches in the thumb are characterized by involuntary, unconsciously controllable, sudden contraction of the thumb muscles. This can include thumb movement.
In addition, a tingling and burning sensation in the thumb can also express itself. The twitches can vary in severity. The phenomenon can be permanent or temporary.
The causes can be manifold. For example, magnesium deficiency, psychological or physical stress, drug side effects, and the effects of stimulants such as caffeine can all cause a thumb twitch. In addition, thyroid dysfunction can trigger the twitches. Diseases such as Parkinson’s syndrome, amytrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or multiple sclerosis (MS) are less common.
Often times, the thumb twitch is harmless.
Read more about the topic at: Parkinson’s Syndrome, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Multiple Sclerosis
Twitching when falling asleep
For many people, jerks when falling asleep are jerky movements that occur just before sleep begins.
They are also known as hypnagogic jerks and have no disease value.
The muscles of the arms and legs, as well as the core muscles, are particularly affected. Many sufferers describe seeing bright flashes of lightning or having the feeling of falling. About 70% of Germans report that they have experienced such jerks when falling asleep or that they experience them regularly.
Even if the topic has been dealt with intensively, no clear cause for the involuntary movements has yet been found. Most likely, changes in brain activity during the transition from waking to sleeping are responsible for the phenomenon.
The reticular formation is a center in the brain that controls, among other things, movement sequences and is responsible for inhibiting the muscles in the sleep phase. Otherwise, we would actually perform the movements we dream and likely injure ourselves while we sleep. There is a presumption that this very center in the activation phase leads to the hypnagogic jerks.
Read also the article: Jerks when falling asleep
Twitching in sleep
Atypical behaviors during sleep are called parasomnias. These also include twitching during sleep, which, however, in the majority of cases have no disease value and do not affect the person concerned.
Only when sleep is disturbed by the behavior does a problem arise for the patient. Constant awakening due to uncontrollable muscle movements can lead to problems falling asleep and staying asleep.
As a result, the body lacks the recovery phase, which can have a negative effect on physical and mental abilities. Concentration suffers from sleep deprivation, which can affect work and social life.
In addition to the illnesses that can lead to twitching during the waking phase, there are other clinical pictures that cause difficulties for the patient, especially in the evening and at night, for example the restless leg syndrome. Stress factors also play an important role. They not only worsen the quality of sleep, but also lead to muscle twitching due to the over-excitability of the nervous system. Drugs and alcohol can also lead to unpleasant jerks or cramps, especially when they are consumed excessively, which are particularly evident when you are resting.
You can also read the article on this: twitching during sleep