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My Muscles are Twitching: Should I Be Worried?

My Muscles are Twitching: Should I Be Worried?

Have you ever had a slight twitch? Where part of your arm, leg or eyelid moves on its own? If so, you’re not alone. Muscle twitches are common. But, when people search their symptoms online, they often think muscle twitching is the first sign of a more complex disease like ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis).

We want to set the story straight. So, we spoke with Brian Peterson, M.D., a neurologist at East Jefferson General Hospital, about what to do when our muscles have minds of their own.

Q: What is muscle twitching?

A: Muscle twitching, also called fasciculation, is a very slight, repetitive movement of your muscles. Usually, you control how your body and muscles move. For example, if you want to flex your bicep muscle, your brain tells your nerves to fire, which moves that muscle. With muscle twitching, your nerves are still firing to move your muscle but without your permission.

Some muscle twitching is noticeable and may be a little annoying. You may not even see or feel the movement for other muscle twitching. Either way, occasional muscle twitches are pretty common — well over half of the population experiences them from time to time.

It’s also important to note that muscle twitches are different than muscle cramps and spasms, such as a Charley horse. With a muscle twitch, your entire limb doesn’t move, only a small section of your muscle.

Q: What causes muscle twitching?

A: It’s not super clear what causes muscle twitching. But anything that increases your adrenaline levels may make these twitches more likely — activities like drinking too much caffeine or being overly stressed. Not getting enough sleep could also affect muscle twitching.

Q: Does muscle twitching mean I have ALS?

A: The short answer — probably not. ALS (or Lou Gehrig’s disease) is a rare condition. It causes the nerve cells that let us control our movements to die. As these neurons go away, the muscles weaken. Over time, people can experience muscle twitching and lose control of arm, leg or body movement.

Muscle twitching that’s not caused by ALS is way more common. If you have occasional muscle twitching or have had it for years without any changes, I wouldn’t be too concerned. Watch for muscle twitching combined with other symptoms like sudden changes in muscle tone, size or strength.

Q: What should I do for muscle twitching?

A: For most patients, I recommend that if you’re experiencing muscle twitches with no other symptoms, wait it out for few months. Usually, the twitching will stop on its own. If it doesn’t stop, make an appointment to see me or another neurologist.

I’ll listen as you describe what’s going on and try to find a diagnosis if you have one. I’ll ask questions and look at the part of your body that’s twitching. You might need a muscle test and/or blood tests.

I may suggest that you come back in a few months to see if anything new develops. Usually, the muscle twitching isn’t serious. It’s often just an annoyance. Unfortunately, there aren’t any medications specifically approved for treating muscle twitching, but some medications can help relax the muscles when needed.

Even if your muscle twitching is nothing to worry about, sometimes talking about it and ruling out any serious conditions can offer you peace of mind. So, come see me if you have concerns.

Find a neurologist in Jefferson Parish

Looking for a neurologist or have a neurology concern? Our doctors, like Dr. Peterson, specialize in treating a full range of neurological conditions. From muscle twitching and headaches to memory loss and ALS, we’re here to help New Orleanians get the care they deserve.

Learn more about Brain & Spine Care