What Is a Fasciculation and How Do You Treat It?

Fasciculations can happen in any muscle

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Almost of all of us have had a fasciculation at some point. A fasciculation is a small, involuntary muscle twitch. The twitch can be large enough that you feel it but is not large enough to make you jerk the affected limb. This can happen to any muscle in the body, including the tongue. While some people can identify when they are having a fasciculation, it's also possible to have a fasciculation without knowing it.

According to the Motor Neuron Disease Foundation, around 70 percent of the population will experience a fasciculation at some point in their lives. 

What Causes Fasciculations?

Most of the causes of fasciculations are not serious and are merely annoying. One of the most common fasciculations comes from having too much caffeine. Sometimes having too little of a particular electrolyte, such as magnesium, in your body can also cause fasciculations. Medications, including Benadryl and asthma medications, may also cause fasciculations. It is also common to experience a fasciculation when resting after exercise. Stress, illness, and viral infections can also cause fasciculations. 

Less commonly, fasciculations can be caused by something more serious such as motor neuron diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), toxins, or even rabies. In these cases, other neurological problems are also present.

If the fasciculations persist, interfere with quality of life, and neurological testing does not show any other problem, someone may be diagnosed with benign fasciculation syndrome (BFS). If your fasciculations present in conjunction with muscle pain or cramps, you may have a cramp-fasciculation syndrome (CSF).

Just because you have CFS or BFS does not mean symptoms do not interfere with your quality of life. 

Treating Fasciculations

The best treatment of fasciculations is to find and treat the underlying cause. If you notice minor twitches after drinking coffee, try drinking less coffee, switching to a half-caffeinated blend, or swapping coffee for tea. You can also ask your doctor to test you for a magnesium deficiency or drink an electrolyte drink during a period of fasciculations to see if that helps your symptoms, especially if symptoms appear after exercising. If you get frequent fasciculations, but can't pinpoint the cause, try keeping a journal of your day, activities, and medications, which can help you and your doctor pinpoint the cause.

In some cases, certain anticonvulsant drugs or beta-blockers can help manage benign fasciculation syndrome. However, there is no particular medication specifically for fasciculations and nothing has been found that can completely control the twitches. Fortunately, if the fasciculation is not due to some other problem, it will often resolve on its own. Fasciculations caused by stress, illnesses, and viruses will likely resolve once whatever is causing it has resolved.

If you fasciculations are due to neurological causes like ALS or multiple sclerosis (MS), speak to your neurologist about your symptoms and discuss disease-specific treatment options that can help reduce episodes of fasciculation. 


Motor Neuron Disease Association. Concerned You Might Have Motor Neuron Disease? 

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