Muscle twitching may not be a big deal to you, but for many men and women, it causes tremendous anxiety and stress.

Just one muscle twitch can set off a fear of dying if the person knows this can be a symptom of a fatal disease.

  • The twitching may be intermittent or extremely frequent, affecting any voluntary (skeletal) muscle — from the lip to the bottom of the foot.
  • Muscle twitching may be all over the body or just in one hot spot.

So what is it about muscle twitching that’s so frightening?

Don’t we all experience an occasional twitching muscle, especially after weightlifting workouts, intense aerobic exercise or a wave of anxiety about life’s trials and tribulations?

How the Problem Starts

The problem begins when one becomes annoyed at a persistent muscle twitch — and googles this symptom.

The first page of search results then include links to sites for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Depending on the individual’s threshold for health anxiety, he or she may then begin thinking they have ALS.

The fear is so overwhelming that for some people, obsession ensues, resulting in frequent self-strength testing, as in the following:

– Trying to get up out of a chair on one leg

– Hopping on one leg; repeatedly lifting something overhead

– Spending hours studying the suspected area of muscle atrophy in the mirror

– Frequent daily inspections of one’s tongue to check for twitching.

Vast Majority of Muscle Twitching Not Caused by Motor Neuron Disease

Relax. The odds are in your favor that all is fine, since motor neuron diseases are rarer than you think.

Chances are pretty high that your twitching muscles have a benign origin.

But even the very small possibilities must be acknowledged: 

“On the other hand, this manifestation can signify serious underlying neurological disorders involving the peripheral nerves such as poliomyelitis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), certain spinal disorders, side effects to certain drugs (acetylcholinesterase inhibitors) and various other neurological problems,” points out Morton Tavel, MD, Clinical Professor Emeritus of Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine, and author of “Health Tips, Myths and Tricks: A Physician’s Advice.”

“Most of these latter problems are usually recognized by the presence of associated disruptions of muscle movements or strength, and require complete evaluation by a physician well-versed in neurological disorders.”

Here’s what neurologists, whom I interviewed, have to say:

–   Twitching Tongue: Bulbar ALS or Normak ?

–   Twitching Calf Muscle: Should You Worry?

–   Muscle Twitching in Fingers? ALS Fear? Strength Tests

–   Muscle Twitching Connection to Anxiety and Exercise

–   Quadriceps Muscle Dent Causes: Atrophy? MS/ALS? or What?

morton tavel, MD

Dr. Tavel’s medical research includes over 125 publications, editorials and book reviews in peer-reviewed national medical journals.