Muscle twitching is a terrifying topic for many people because when they do some Googling, they think, “Twitching muscles is a symptom of a killer disease.”
Muscle twitching is very common, affecting millions of people, but ALS, the disease in which muscle twitching is a symptom according to medical sites, is extremely rare.
Nevertheless, a person with twitching muscles may become vulnerable to a terrifying hypochondria in which they think they have fatal ALS whenever a muscle twitches. But muscle twitching is a fact of life.
“While muscle twitching can be a concerning and disturbing symptom,” says Dr. Daniel Kantor, “many people have it simply as ‘one of those things.’”
Daniel Kantor, MD, is President Emeritus, Florida Society of Neurology, and director, Neurology Residency Program, Florida Atlantic University.
“It is nothing to worry about,” he continues. “Of course, you always want to clarify this with your primary care doctor or neurologist to exclude other, more serious, causes.”
As I type this, my triceps muscle is twitching away. I pulled my sleeve up and watched. Boing, boing, boing, like there was a beating heart below my triceps muscle.
But am I scared I might have ALS? No. It’s no coincidence that two days ago, I put my triceps muscles through a punishing weightlifting routine.
Two days out from grueling weight workouts often result in strange things, like muscle twitching.
If your muscles are twitching, ask yourself if one or two days ago, you worked that muscle at the gym.
The fact that you can see the twitching is NO cause for concern. Of COURSE you can see the muscle twitchin’ away; why wouldn’t you be able to see it?
Muscle Twitching Can Be a Good Thing.
You can train your mind to accept it, and then perceive it as cool — as in it feels neat when muscles twitch, especially fatigued muscles that are drained from exercise.
My right hamstring is injured, and when it twitches, boy does it feel good ! The twitching is like a little massage machine inside the hamstring, soothing it.
What makes muscles twitch?
“Muscles may randomly twitch for many reasons,” says Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, and medical advisory board member of the Nutritional Magnesium Association at www.nutritionalmagnesium.org.
She adds, “They can twitch due to anxiety or stress, a sleepless night, too much coffee or after exercise.”
Muscles will twitch even more if your anxiety is related to ALS. People who suffer from this hypochondria will typically report that one day, a twitching muscle was becoming annoying.
So they googled muscle twitching and several ALS links came up. The link descriptions clear-out say muscle twitching is a symptom.
The person panics and suspects they have ALS. They then visit the ALS site and read that muscle twitching is one of three chief ALS symptoms. The fear intensifies.
Convinced they might have ALS, the person becomes overwhelmed with anxiety, and within minutes, their localized muscle twitching has “spread” throughout their entire body.
Has this happened to you?
Realize that ALS does not instantly “spread.” Though muscle twitching is an ALS symptom, the ALS websites often fail to add a very crucial detail:
This symptom is preceded by, and then accompanied by, “clinical” muscle weakness.
A fearful person who hits a website that actually includes this detail, however, won’t necessarily be relieved, because once they read this, they’ll then suddenly feel “weakness” in a twitching part of their body.
They’ll stand up and test it out, and sure enough, suddenly the area feels weak. This experience is called perceived weakness.
This is how the mind works.
But ALS weakness is serious; it’s not just a feeling of weakness or a perceived weakness.
You can perceive weakness in your leg all you want, but you’ll still be able to trot up a flight of stairs or run across the parking lot.
If you have ALS weakness, those stairs will be impossible to climb without struggling.
Exercise ranks high on causes of muscle twitching because lactic acid collects in the exercised area, and lactic acid and other byproducts of exercise can cause nerves to spontaneously fire away.
In layman’s terms, the nerves are still buzzed from the exercise, and this buzzing can manifest itself one or two days after the exercise.
Anxiety causes twitching because fear signals to muscles to get ready for a battle. The muscles rev up their engines and this causes twitching: The muscles prepare for flight or a fight.
This natural neurological response helped humans survive during primitive times; ancient man’s muscles needed to react quickly to an urgent situation (hissing snake, approaching animal, unexpected chance to catch a rabbit for food, etc.).
Other causes of muscle twitching include electrolyte imbalance, calcium and magnesium deficiency, medications, Lyme disease and dehydration. ALS ranks at the bottom of the list because it’s so rare.
Dr. Kantor is also President Emeritus, Florida Society of Neurology.