8 reasons your muscles are twitching

What are muscle twitches and what causes them?

10 (1 reviews) Rate this page

S.A.C. Dip (Diet, Exercise & Fitness), Advanced Human Anatomy & Physiology Level 3
Ask a question

25 April 2024

Reasons muscles are twitching

If you've ever experienced muscle twitching, you'll know that it can be a little alarming. Understanding what's at the root of the problem, though, should make it easier to deal with. A muscle twitch could be caused by common causes including:

  • Poor nutrition and lack of electrolytes which could also contribute to muscle weakness
  • Dehydration, which can also cause muscle spasms
  • Intense exercise
  • High caffeine and alcohol intake
  • Poor sleep
  • Stress
  • Medication
  • Smoking
  • An underlying condition.

In this piece, I will take a detailed look at why these things may cause muscle fibers to start twitching, plus I will offer some advice to deal with the issue.

1. Poor nutrition and lack of electrolytes

Electrolytes such as calcium, potassium and magnesium are essential for maintaining healthy muscle function, and therefore deficiencies could be one of a few common causes of spasms or twitches.

Our in-house nutritionist Emma helps to explain this in a little more detail:

"Calcium plays an important part in muscle contractions and nerve signalling as does magnesium; this nutrient works very closely with calcium and may actually help to reduce muscle cramps and twitches. Plant-based foods often offer both these nutrients in combination.

Potassium is another electrolyte which has an important part to play in nerve signalling and muscular contractions; therefore, nutrient deficiencies could contribute to changes in muscle function.

Finally, vitamin D is also crucial for the health of the muscles, as well as our bones. Vitamin D helps support the absorption of calcium, plus, it too is thought to have some involvement in nerve impulse transmission."

If a poor diet means you aren't getting enough of these minerals, it may therefore result in muscle twitching.

It is also important to note that certain medications, including those for blood pressure, can impact the balance of electrolytes in the body and could cause benign twitches occur.


A.Vogel Balance Mineral Drink with Vitamin D3, Magnesium, Zinc, Potassium and Calcium.

£8.25 (7 x 5.5g sachets) In Stock

2. Dehydration

Vital fluids are lost through sweat, urine, vomit and other means and this can result in dehydration. Dehydration affects the entire body, from an external to a cellular level. Symptoms could range from twitching eyes, right through to anxiety, tiredness or lack of concentration.

When we are dehydrated, blood flow to the working muscles is significantly reduced. This can impact the ability of these muscles to carry out normal functions like contracting and relaxing and this may contribute to a muscle twitch.

Important electrolytes, such as potassium and calcium, are also lost through fluids. As we already know, these are crucial for efficient muscle function.

It is particularly common for muscle twitching to occur around the eyes as a result of dehydration, though other factors could be to blame here, such as long hours spent at a computer, or irritants like dust.

3. Exercise

Twitching muscles can be more common after a period of exercise, especially if the activity has been particularly strenuous and the muscles are fatigued and over-worked.

During exercise we lose lots of nutrients and electrolytes through sweat and, as we now know, a lack of magnesium, calcium, magnesium (and more) can lead to muscle twitches.1

Muscles twitching is most often felt in the calves, thighs and biceps after exercise as these areas of the body are put under the most strain.

Lactic acid can also build in the muscles during exercise and this too contributes to muscle twitching.

At this time the body uses its stores of oxygen to convert glucose into energy. If there isn't enough oxygen to carry out this process, however, then lactate is produced as this can be transferred into energy without the need for oxygen. Lactic acid cannot be used as quickly as it is made, though, and this can result in symptoms including muscle pain and twitching, as well as nausea and weakness.

4. Caffeine and alcohol

Your body is really clever in that it gives you clear signs when you've had too much caffeine intake, and one of these signs is muscle twitching. The stimulants in high levels of caffeine can cause small, involuntary tension in muscle fibres across the body.

As well as this, caffeine acts as a mild diuretic so, if you drink too much caffeine, you are more at risk of becoming dehydrated. As I explained above, dehydration can contribute to muscle twitching.

Caffeine can also block the absorption of certain nutrients and electrolytes meaning the likes of magnesium, potassium and vitamin D, which are needed to help prevent muscle twitching, will not be absorbed properly.

In some cases, muscle twitching can also be the result of very high alcohol consumption.2 Alcohol is yet another thing that may affect the body's ability to take in nutrients and electrolytes that are important for the health of the muscles.3

5. Poor sleep

Being tired or sleep deprived could trigger muscle twitches, particularly if you then go on to exercise.

The brain uses chemical signals called neurotransmitters to communicate with the body but, when we have a lack of sleep, the brain's ability to send these signals is reduced. This can result in it sending extra signals to the muscle fibres, thus resulting in a twitch. These neurotransmitters may also build up in the brain which may also cause twitching.

6. Stress

Stress is another possible underlying cause of muscle twitching. When our stress system is activated, the body prepares to fight off imminent danger. In response to this danger – whether it is fighting off a bear or dealing with stress caused by work – our nervous system behaves erratically. Since our nerve impulses are responsible for muscle control, it comes as no surprise that stress can cause our muscles to twitch!

7. Medication

In some cases, certain medications such as antidepressants, blood pressure medications or water pills, may result in muscle twitching. Some antidepressants have a stimulating effect in order for them to work properly, and this can cause involuntary contractions of muscle fibres, whilst blood pressure medications can influence the balance of electrolytes.

If you think that your medication could be behind your symptoms then visit your GP for further advice. It is really important that you do not alter your medication before consulting a doctor.

8. Smoking

Nicotine can also be a cause of muscle twitching as this is a stimulant. If you are struggling with a smoking habit then speak to your doctor to find advice on giving up. You can also visit the NHS website for tips.

Other reasons for muscle twitching

Although muscle twitches are most often harmless, in rare cases, they could be early symptoms of a more serious underlying medical condition, so you should always speak to your healthcare provider if you are in any doubt. These conditions may also be accompanied by other symptoms. Health conditions that can cause muscle twitching include:

  • Multiple sclerosis - Multiple sclerosis this condition affects the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) and, as a result, additional symptoms can develop across the body. Balance, sensation, movement and vision are just some areas that can be affected
  • Muscular dystrophy – this covers a range of conditions that, over time, cause the muscles to weaken
  • Isaacs syndrome – Isaacs syndrome is a rare condition that can cause muscle twitching, stiffness and cramps
  • Pinched spinal nerve – this is when the tissues that surround a nerve put too much pressure on it. This can occur in the back, leg, hands and other areas of the body and causes other symptoms including pain, tingling, numbness and weakness
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis - Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a group of nerve disorders. These are rare and mainly affect the nerve cells
  • Lupus – this is an autoimmune condition that can cause a range of symptoms in areas including the joints, brain, kidneys and skin. It occurs when the immune system attacks its own organs and tissues
  • Benign fasciculation syndrome – this is a neurological disorder that causes muscle twitching in areas across the body including the eyes, hands, fingers, feet and legs
  • Dystonia – this is a neurological movement disorder. Painful muscle spasms are a common symptom, as a result of signals from the brain, through the spinal cord to nerve cells, not being correct
  • Motor neuron disease – this is a group of diseases affecting the brain or spinal cord. Messages from the motor neurons stop reaching the muscles and this can cause other symptoms including stiffness and weakness.

Treating and preventing muscle twitches

Address your diet

A balanced diet containing more calcium-rich foods, as well as potassium and magnesium can help to ease muscle twitching and beyond this, help you to stay healthy otherwise.

Sweet potatoes, dairy products and tofu are all rich in calcium. Salmon and broccoli are just a couple of good sources of potassium, whilst magnesium is present in the likes of spinach and bananas.

Try to avoid processed goods (such as biscuits and jars of sauce) which offer less nutritionally – you can check out our healthy recipes page if you need inspiration for some fresher alternatives!

banana and avocado smoothie is also a good option as it contains magnesium and potassium which, as I've explained, are very important for the muscles. Upping your intake could help to stop muscle twitching.

Stay hydrated

To help your muscles it is really important to drink more water, particularly when exercising, as more fluids are lost at this time.

It is recommended that we drink around 8 or 9 glasses of plain, still water a day, and even more if the weather is hot or you are doing exercise. This may not seem like a lot of water, but many of us still struggle to reach this intake on a daily basis – after all, let's face it, water isn't the most exciting of beverages! Why not try infusing your water with mint, strawberries or ginger for some extra flavour.

Reduce your caffeine and alcohol intake

Cutting down your consumption of caffeine and alcohol may help to get any muscle twitches under control. Rather than giving up caffeine altogether, though, you could try swapping to some non-caffeinated varieties.

Herbal teas and Bambu are excellent options. The latter is not only caffeine-free; it is also high in potassium which helps support cell activity and prevents muscle twitches.

Get more sleep

Try to make sure you get enough sleep, at least 8 hours of sleep every night to help prevent a lack of sleep, and control muscle twitching.

To help you sleep better, get up and go to bed at the same time each night. This will help to make sure your circadian rhythm (sleep cycle) is not disrupted by an irregular sleeping pattern.

If you struggle to get to sleep, or wake up regularly during the night, consider trying a sleep remedy like Dormeasan to help you drift off to sleep. Dormeasan is a herbal sleeping aid and is used to restore a natural sleep without the groggy side-effects that can happen with sleeping medication.

Tackle stress

Managing stress effectively will help to control nerve impulses. Exercise, meditation, or breathing techniques are useful tools to help alleviate stress.

In addition, herbal remedies can be effective at reducing stress. I'd recommend Stress Relief Daytime which is made from fresh valerian and hops to help relieve mild anxiety and stress.

Massage is another good option because not only is it very relaxing, it can also help to soothe muscles and improve blood flow.

Try gentle exercise 

If you experience muscle twitching whilst exercising it is most likely that your workout is too strenuous. Therefore, you may benefit from switching to a gentler activity or, at least, reducing the amount of time you spend doing a strenuous workout each week.

Setting aside some time to cool down and warm up after a period of exercise is also really important when trying to control muscle twitching.

You can visit our Get Active hub for some simple warm up exercises for any type of sport.

What’s the difference between muscle cramps and twitching?

A muscle cramp is a strong, painful and involuntary muscle contraction of the whole muscle. Muscle twitches, on the other hand, are not painful and normally occur in muscle fibers rather than the whole muscle.

Muscle twitching can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few weeks. Twitches that last any longer than this can be an indication of an underlying health condition and should be checked by a doctor. Usually, however, they are not a cause for concern.

When should I see the doctor about muscle twitching?

You should consult your doctor if you experience twitching for more than 2 weeks, you have a twitch in more than one place, the affected area feels weak or you think medication may be causing the problem.

At a consultation your doctor will take your medical history into account, discuss your symptoms and the possible causes of muscle twitching, such as nutritional deficiency or dehydration. They may carry out any necessary physical exam or blood tests to confirm any suspicions around certain causes, or rule out a more serious condition. They may then organise a follow-up appointment if the symptoms have not subsided in a couple of weeks in case a referral is required. All treatment options depending on the outcome will also be discussed.


1 https://journals.lww.com/acsm-csmr/Fulltext/2008/07001/Muscle_Cramps_during_Exercise_Is_It_Fatigue_or.9.aspx

2 https://www.alcohol.org/comorbid/myopathy/

3 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1530-0277.2012.01902.x?systemMessage=Wiley+Online+Library+usage+report+download+page+will+be+unavailable+on+Friday+24th+November+2017+at+21%3A


Originally published on 02 August 2017 (updated on 25 April 2019)

A.Vogel Atrosan Devil’s Claw Tablets

30 tablets

£ 12.99

find your local stockist

Relieves muscle & joint pain, backache and lumbago. Also available in 60 tablet size.
More info

What's being asked

I have pain all down my thigh muscle. What can I do?

Thigh pain usually originates from a stiff back, unless of course you've overworked the thigh ...
Read more >

How do I reduce the pain in my muscles, as I get to the point where I am unable to walk easily?

Muscle pain can be caused by a variety of factors so it is important to get a proper diagnosis from ...
Read more >

I have roaming muscle pain, sometimes in my arm, or upper back , shoulder or sides of back. This lasts for approx. 5 minutes and then goes back to normal. Can you help?

Because your symptoms won't sit still, I'd recommend you get along to your GP in order that some ...
Read more >

Just how healthy are your muscles and joints?

Answer our questions and find out if your flexibility is compromised.

Find out how flexible you are

Here's what I recommend

As the A. Vogel Muscles and Joints advisor, I recommend Atrogel® for the effective relief from aches and pains.

Learn more

Did you know?

Foods such as red meat and dairy products and drinks such as caffeine and alcohol can all trigger inflammation which can increase muscle and joint pain.

Worst foods for muscle & joint pain

Healthy & nutritious dinner ideas

Get new recipes in your inbox every week. Sign up now