Many people have an occasional muscle twitch somewhere on their body. They can range from mildly annoying to a persistent aggravation and pain that can nearly drive one mad. Many times the twitching goes away on its own in a short time, but in other cases it can continue on for months or years.
In some cases the twitching may be due to simple muscle fatigue, eye strain, stress, drug reactions, and even caffeine. In other cases, it could indicate a disease or situation requiring serious attention.
Twitching generally occurs as a result of an overwrought nervous system unloading impulses. It is most common during rest from stress and strain. Facial twitching in adults, accompanied by rather severe facial pain, is the result of a facial neuralgia.
Twitching occurs when a muscle contracts and releases suddenly and involuntarily. Slight twitches are obvious to the person experiencing them, but they are not usually noticeable to others. It is very common for muscles to twitch involuntarily from fatigue after strenuous exercise. Many people experience twitching and jerking of several muscle groups when falling asleep. Twitching eyelid muscles are common.
Parkinson's disease can involve twitching and grimacing, though many other symptoms predominate. Similarly, in Huntington's chorea, the focus is not only on the display of characteristic involuntary muscle movements, but on the psychological states of apathy, irritability and mania that are experienced with this illness.
An excess of toxic heavy metals in the body such as mercury, aluminum, lead, cadmium and copper can lead to neurological irritation, and twitching. A hair mineral analysis can determine individual toxic heavy-metal levels.
Some people have found relief in treating their twitching with mineral supplements (such as potassium or calcium), hot packs, massage, or drinking a few glasses of tonic water for the quinine. Others have resorted to Botox injections which can be painful, expensive and offer only temporary relief, not to mention the possible bruising and drooping limp muscles from the Botulinum toxin. In some severe cases, surgery has been the chosen recourse sought.
Neuromuscular function and muscle control require the minerals magnesium, calcium and potassium. A deficiency could be causing tics, trembling or cramping. The B-vitamins reduce stress-triggered trembling by calming the nervous system. Vitamin B12 is often poorly absorbed through the intestinal tract and should be taken in a sublingual form. Calcium is also important for muscle growth and contraction and for the prevention of muscle cramps.
Herbs are excellent for treating nervous system problems of all kinds. Chamomile, hops, lady's slipper, passion flower, skullcap, wood betony, St. John's wort or valerian in tea or tincture form provide a sedative effect on the nervous system. For tea, add 1 cup of boiling water to 1 tsp. of herbs or take 20 drops of herbal tincture in liquid daily.
When twitching is associated with other signs of a nervous system disorder, it can be more serious. In this case, a neurologist can best secure the diagnosis.
Severe hypokalemia may produce muscular malfunction, but is rarely seen in a normal outpatient population.
The May 2004 Annals of Internal Medicine study showed that most of the Atkins Dieters had significantly more muscle cramps than the general population. Along with the toxins created by low-carbohydrate diets, one's kidneys also flush out critical electrolytes such as calcium, magnesium and potassium, which may result in muscle cramps or worse. [Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition 12 (2002): p.396]
Excess sweating or dehydration can deplete minerals in the body – minerals that are important for good muscle function, such as sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.
Unusual tics or twitching of facial muscles have been associated with mercury toxicity, as well as with muscle cramps in cases of high occupational exposure to mercury.
As hypoglycemia progresses a variety of symptoms can occur including muscle twitching. Amongst 300 patients in one study (185 female, 115 male) found to have relative hypoglycemia (a drop of 20% or more below the fasting blood sugar level during a 6-hour glucose tolerance test), 23% had muscular twitching or cramps.
The "tics" commonly seen in TS may include uncontrollable blinking, facial grimaces, head jerking, muscle twitches, as well as involuntary vocalizations.
Stiffness and cramping pain is common. Weakness caused by GBS may be accompanied by pain and muscle spasms.
Early symptoms of magnesium deficiency can include fatigue, anorexia, irritability, insomnia, and muscle tremors or twitching. Many cases of muscle cramps are caused by low concentrations of magnesium. [Muscle cramps and magnesium deficiency: case reports. Canadian Family Physician. July 1996: 42; pp.1348-1351]
Some people claim that cannabis is effective for relieving muscle spasms in general, not just those that result from multiple sclerosis or paralysis. A book is available on the Internet about this subject called Muscle Spasm, Pain & Marijuana Therapy: Testimony from Federal and State Court Proceedings on Marijuana's Medical Use edited by R.C. Randall.
Tod Mikuriya, M.D. describes his clinical experiences with different kinds of spasms in Marijuana Medical Handbook. Overall, his report is favorable with regard to the benefits seen when treating muscle spasms.
Doctors may feel they have to resort to drugs like Sinequin (Doxepin) or Klonopin (Klonazepam). Sinequin is a tricyclic anti-depressant and anti-histamine that can produce marked sedation. This medication may enhance the effect of Klonopin, but it can reduce muscle twitching all by itself. Klonopin is an anti-anxiety medication and anti-convulsive/anti-spasmodic. It is useful in dealing with muscle twitching, restless leg syndrome, and night-time grinding of the teeth (bruxism).
Medications such as diuretics or water pills can lead to cramping due to loss of sodium and potassium.
Because of this function and its nerve and muscle support, magnesium may also be helpful for muscle cramps.
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