Why do muscle fasciculations occur?

Muscle fasciculations are involuntary subcutaneous contractions of muscle fibres, often of a benign type

Have you ever experienced a sudden and repeated trembling of the eyelid or a muscle in your body? It is probably muscle fasciculation.

What are muscle fasciculations

Muscle fasciculations consist of involuntary and repeated contractions of one or more muscle fibres.

The person feels a sensation that is often described as a slight subcutaneous ‘tremor’ in one or more areas of the body that they cannot control or stop.

The contraction is visible and recognisable from the outside and can affect any muscle area.

In particular:

  • limbs;
  • eyelids;
  • facial muscles.

The disturbance may last from a few seconds to a few minutes, then recur several times during the day.

They usually appear in isolation and, only if they are part of a more important clinical picture, may be associated with other symptoms, such as:

  • paresthesias
  • cramps;
  • numbness in the limbs;
  • sensation of rigidity;
  • motor difficulties.

The causes of muscle fasciculations

Fasciculations are caused by abnormal contractions of muscle fibres, which can be caused by various factors, the most frequent of which are electrolyte imbalances.

Fasciculations can also be caused by certain important pathologies, but it should be pointed out that in the majority of cases they are benign and do not require any clinical or instrumental investigation.

Triggering factors can be

  • psychophysical stress
  • anxious situations;
  • muscular fatigue.

Fasciculations may also be due to side effects or the sudden and inappropriate withdrawal of certain drugs, as well as excessive intake of stimulants.

In cases where the patient presents occasional fasciculations and especially diffused in different body districts, we speak of benign fasciculations syndrome.

In other cases, which are fortunately rarer, fasciculations may be the sign and symptom of muscular denervation.

This occurs in all those pathologies in which the peripheral nervous lesion allows the muscle fibres to contract spontaneously in an abnormal and involuntary manner.

However, it should be noted that only muscle groups that have lost or are losing innervation are usually affected, so fasciculations occur in defined and stable body areas.

For example, in the case of a motor nerve root lesion, fasciculations will only affect the muscles innervated by that root.

In conclusion, when a patient experiences occasional and scattered symptoms in different areas of the body, we are almost always dealing with a completely benign situation.

Diagnosis of muscular fasciculation

In order to make a correct diagnosis and exclude that fasciculations are a symptom of more complex pathologies, the specialist relies on an objective examination and anamnestic collection.

On the basis of the results of these evaluations, further instrumental investigations are carried out in selected cases, such as blood tests, CT or MRI scans, but above all electromyography, which can provide important information about the integrity of peripheral nerves and muscles.

How to treat muscle fasciculations

In most cases, the patient coming to the clinic only needs to be reassured that the disorder is benign.

If the fasciculations are due to a more complex disease, a precise diagnosis and treatment must be made for that particular disease.

There are no specific drugs for this symptom.

In a patient suffering from benign fasciculations syndrome, it is important:

  • to control stress levels;
  • have a regular sleep-wake rhythm;
  • check and, if necessary, correct blood magnesium and potassium levels;
  • avoid excess caffeine and all excitatory substances in general.

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