We have each experienced a muscle twitch at some point in our lives. Usually it goes away on its own with no intervention. But sometimes that tic or twitch becomes chronic, and it can feel like it will drive you crazy. There are several causes of common, benign muscle twitches.
First, a little terminology:
Twitch – A minor involuntary painless muscle contraction.
Cramp – A sudden painful involuntary muscle contraction.
Fasciculation – Spontaneous muscle contractions in a rippling manner, like a wave of twitching.
A muscle twitch isn’t really just a muscle issue. It is a nerve issue. Usually the twitch is caused by a single motor nerve fiber telling the muscle or muscle group to move. The nerve can fire again and again, causing the muscle to twitch each time. A common spot for this to happen is an eyelid, but it can happen just about anywhere in your body.
The nerve fiber often misfires like this due to irritability in the nerve or nervous system. This can have many different causes, but some of the most common benign causes are stress or anxiety, fatigue, exercise, dietary deficiency such as an electrolyte imbalance, medication side effects (particularly diuretics), or too much caffeine or alcohol intake. Many times it is hard to determine exactly what causes the temporary twitching.
Muscle twitching is usually benign, but if it is constant for more than a few days, returns regularly or is accompanied by any other symptom such as weakness, muscle wasting, or a change in sensation (such as numbness or tingling), you should see a health care provider. That may be the time to have blood work or a neuro/physical exam to rule out things like calcium or other mineral/electrolyte deficiency, or an early neurological problem. Excessive alcohol intake over time results in vitamin B (especially B6) deficiencies that can also cause chronic twitching.
Prevention of muscle twitches may not always be possible, but you improve your odds of avoiding them by getting adequate sleep, eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, and staying hydrated. Avoid large amounts of caffeine or alcohol. If you experience this phenomenon, don’t be too worried.