Muscle twitching

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Definition

Muscle twitches are fine movements of a small area of muscle.

Alternative Names

Muscle fasciculation; Fasciculations of muscle

Considerations

Muscle twitching is caused by minor muscle contractions in the area, or uncontrollable twitching of a muscle group that is served by a single motor nerve fiber.

Muscle twitches are minor and often go unnoticed. Some are common and normal. Others are signs of a nervous system disorder.

Common Causes

  • Autoimmune disorders such as Isaac syndrome
  • Drug overdose (caffeine, amphetamines, or other stimulants)
  • Drug side effect (such as from diuretics, corticosteroids, or estrogens)
  • Exercise
  • Lack of nutrients in the diet (deficiency)
  • Stress
  • Twitches not caused by disease or disorders (benign twitches)
    • Often affecting the eyelids, calf, or thumb
    • Normal and quite common, often triggered by stress or anxiety
    • Come and go, and do not last for more than a few days

Nervous system conditions that can cause muscle twitching:

Symptoms of a nervous system disorder include:

  • Loss of, or change in, sensation
  • Loss of muscle size (wasting)
  • Weakness

Home Care

No treatment is usually needed for benign muscle twitching.

Call your health care provider if

Call your health care provider if you have long-term or persistent muscle twitches.

What to expect at your health care provider's office

Your health care provider will take a medical history and perform a physical examination.

Medical history questions may include:

  • When did you first notice the twitching?
  • How long does it last?
  • How often do you experience twitching?
  • What muscles are affected?
  • Is it always in the same location?
  • Are you pregnant?
  • What other symptoms do you have?

Tests depend on the suspected cause, and may include:

Prevention

References

Chinnery PF. Muscle diseases. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011: chap 429.

Griggs RC, Jozefowicz RF, Aminoff MJ. Approach to the patient with neurologic disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011: chap 403.

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 2/5/2012
  • David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, and Department of Anatomy at UCSF, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

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This page was last updated: May 20, 2014

         
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