Muscular twitches, also known as fasciculations, are typically harmless, common and short-lived. Time is typically the solution to minor muscle twitches--most resolve themselves within a couple of days. Rarely, muscular twitches are symptomatic of a medical disorder and require medical attention and intervention.
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The central nervous system (CNS) serves as the body's communication center. CNS motor neurons form motor units, which are each responsible for single or group muscular movement. Motor units activate muscle fibers that vary in size (the motor unit for eyes is responsible for a small amount of fibers while leg muscles can contain thousands of fibers). Motor units signal muscular relaxation and contraction. Muscular twitches occur when the motor unit signals the muscle to make repetitive and uncontrollable contractions.
Causes of Harmless Muscle Twitches
Muscle twitches are usually minor and don't interfere with daily living. Harmless twitches typically occur in the eyelids, calves, thumbs and legs. Excessive caffeine intake, anxiety and inefficient amounts of sleep can cause muscle twitches. Muscular fatigue or injury because of exercise can contribute to muscle twitches. Diuretics, estrogen supplements and corticosteroids can all cause muscle twitches.
Muscle Twitches and Medical Concerns
If muscle twitches don't stop after a few days and continue to reappear over time, they may be indicative of a nervous system disorder, such as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. Persistent muscle twitches are sometimes symptoms of muscular myopathies, fibromyalgia, muscular dystrophy and nerve damage. Doctors perform screenings and may use MRIs, electromyograms and blood tests to determine if the twitches are related to a medical condition.
Tingling, numbness and muscular spasms are common symptoms of muscle twitches. When symptoms occur, immediate stretching or using the muscles (walking, lifting) can help alleviate the twitching.
Prevention and Treatment
Yoga, meditation and breathing techniques may help prevent and stop muscle twitches that are caused by anxiety. Caffeine reduction will alleviate muscle twitches associated high caffeine intake. Talk to your doctor if muscle twitches are a side effect of medication to determine if other medications or modifications can be made to prevent future twitches. Muscle twitches associated with a medical condition might lessen with treatment of the greater condition.