You’ve likely experienced a random muscle spasm at some point. Whether you’ve had an extremely uncomfortable charlie horse in your calf, had a consistent twitch in your pectoral muscle after lifting weights, or been jerked awake by a full-body twitch just as you were dozing off, you probably understand how strange it is to have a muscle moving outside of your control. So what exactly do those annoying body twitches really mean, and are they something you should be concerned about? Read on to find out!
What can cause body twitching and what to do
Dehydration: Just as dehydration can impact your body regarding headaches, lethargy, and digestive issues, it can also contribute to muscle twitches. Be sure to drink plenty of water. A good rule of thumb is half of your body weight in ounces each day. Throughout the day. Not all at once. This will help you retain salt and prevent rapid water loss.
You also need to ensure that you are getting adequate electrolytes like potassium and magnesium in your diet or taking a supplement to make up for any lack of nutrients. Keep in mind, heavy sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, and certain medications can all zap your electrolyte levels.
Stress: Stress is the silent killer. It creeps up behind you without you even realizing it, affecting your brain, cortisol levels, and causing muscles to tense up. Plus, stress and anxiety often go hand in hand with muscles twitching even when you don’t necessarily recognize that you’re stressed. It can release neurotransmitters from the nerves in your muscles, sending signals to your brain that cause muscle spasms. These are often called “nervous ticks” and may exist for that person for a while, or until they manage to cultivate a relaxing, stress-free lifestyle. Identify healthy ways to process your stress and remove yourself from stressful situations when possible.
Nicotine: As if you needed another reason to avoid cigarettes and vapes with nicotine. This addictive substance can lead to massive muscle spasms, particularly in the legs. This one is an easy fix…stop using products with nicotine!
Exercise: Going for a long, hard run after not working out for months on end or lifting weights when you’ve never done strength training probably are prime examples of bad ways to workout. It is important to build your body up to be able to accomplish exercises. Otherwise, you will end up with sore, twitching, potentially damaged muscles.
Lactic acid is the primary culprit since it can accumulate in the muscles and contribute to spasms, muscle fatigue, cramps, and soreness.
Exhaustion: When you’ve pushed your body well past its physical limitations and fail to give it the rest it needs, it will respond with twitchy muscles and aching joints. Be sure to prioritize sleep in your life.
- Isaac’s syndrome
- Too much caffeine
- Seratonin syndrome
- Kidney disease
- Lou Gehrig’s disease
- Pinched spinal nerve
- Poor nutrition
- Hormonal imbalance
- Issacs syndrome
What to do
Though it seems like the go-to trifecta answer for any health concerns and might seem a little cliche, the reminder is always warranted. Diet, exercise, Sleep.
Eat well, so that your diet isn’t full of unhealthy, processed junk foods and ensure that it contains fresh produce and healthy grains. You should also exercise regularly, starting at your level and pushing yourself as you advance. Don’t forget to sleep! It is a critical element of health that is often deprioritized. Think about it this way, if your body doesn’t have time to recharge and recover, your whole system (including your muscles) will stay drained, twitchy, and overwrought.
When to go to the doctor
If you notice that your muscle twitching is getting worse over time without notable improvement, it is a good idea to make an appointment with your primary care physician. Most twitches will abate on their own within 1-3 days, but it is important to get help if needed to catch any serious issues early on.
Be sure to take note of how long the twitches occur, when they started, how often, what part of your body, and if there are any triggers. Having the answers to these questions ahead of time will give your doctor the information they need and will ensure that you get the most accurate care possible.