Muscle Twitches, Tics, and Jerks


What Causes Tics and Twitches? Are They Serious?

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Ever experienced muscle twitches, jerks, or involuntary tics? What causes them? Are they serious? Don't panic—here's everything you need to know.

What are Muscle Twitches and Tics?

After recent hip surgery, I began experiencing unsettling twitching, cramping, and wavelike sensations along my affected side. My physical therapist reassured me by saying this was no doubt my tendons and muscles objecting to and gradually accommodating to new positions. He was right. The weird movements slowly subsided, and are no longer so intrusive.

But they got me to thinking about the variety of involuntary muscle twitches, jerks, and tremors most of us have experienced at one time or another. An eyelid flutters. A few fibers twitch in a jaw or calf muscle. Gulping a cup of tea brings on a case of hiccups. We feel our arms and legs jerk as we start falling asleep.

Generally, the distracting movement flickers a few times and fades, though occasionally, an annoying twitch keeps returning, or turns into a painful cramp; a case of hiccups goes on and on, despite trying any number of home remedies.  

About Tics, Twitches, and Jerks

You’ll find a lot of different names for different kinds of unintentional movements, among them:

  • Twitches: Fine movements of a small area of muscle.
  • Tics: Short-lasting sudden movements (motor tics) or uttered sounds (vocal tics) occurring suddenly during what is otherwise normal behavior.
  • Fasciculations: Another word for muscle twitches.
  • Myoclonic jerks: Sudden, involuntary jerking of a muscle or group of muscles.
  • Tremors: Rhythmic muscle contraction leading to shaking movements in one or more parts of the body.
  • Hiccups: Sudden contractions of the diaphragm muscle.

What Causes Muscle Twitches and Tics?

The reassuring news: By whatever name, most twitches, motor tics, and jerks are benign and short-lived.

They are very common and usually come and go. The various causes include:

That said, medical experts say muscle twitches and tics sometimes come and go with no apparent cause.

But they also say if the unintended jerks, tremors, tics, or twitching worsen, interfere with activities of daily life, or spread to other regions of the body, it’s time to seek professional help to rule out underlying neurological or psychogenic movement disorders.

Tips on Managing Twitches

  • Stay calm. This is usually a benign, temporary condition and does not cause complications.
  • Bringing someone else's attention to a tic may make it worse or cause it to persist.
  • Consider any sources of stress. Creating a non-stressful environment can reduce frequency of tics and help them disappear faster.
  • Talk to your health professional if you're concerned.

Do you ever experience muscle twitches, tics, or jerks? Tell us about your home remedies below!

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About The Author

Margaret Boyles

Margaret Boyles is a longtime contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. She wrote for UNH Cooperative Extension, managed NH Outside, and contributes to various media covering environmental and human health issues. Read More from Margaret Boyles

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