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Myoclonus – causes, side effects and treatments at

Thursday, May 24, 2018 by

Myoclonus refers to brief, shock-like contractions (tightening) of a muscle or a group of muscles. It may involve only one hand, a group of muscles in the upper arm or leg, or a group of facial muscles. It may also involve many muscles at the same time.

Some common examples of myoclonus are:

  • Hiccups (diaphragmatic myoclonus)
  • A sudden violent jerking when one is startled
  • The twitching of an arm or leg as you begin to fall asleep

These types of muscle contractions are normal. However, when muscle jerks or twitches happen frequently or affect more than one area of the body, they may cause problems with ordinary activities, such as walking, talking, or eating.

Some cases of myoclonus may result from underlying disorders or conditions, such as:

  • Brain tumors
  • Chemical poisoning
  • Drug poisoning
  • Epilepsy
  • Genetic disorders
  • Head or spinal cord injuries
  • Hypoxia (a long period of time without oxygen)
  • Kidney failure
  • Liver failure
  • Nervous system disorders

Known symptoms of myoclonus

Myoclonus can be mild or severe, and the twitches may come quickly or slowly, in a rhythmic or random pattern. It may also occur once in a while or frequently, and may occur spontaneously or be triggered by a stimulus, such as a sudden noise or movement.

Body systems harmed by myoclonus

If myoclonus is due to a metabolic disorder, it may persist and affect muscles throughout the body, sometimes leading to seizures. Complications may arise from seizures, such as:

  • Cognitive and behavioral complications – Complications include a noticeable change in personality; the individual may lose their sense of humor and be quick to anger. The person may become extremely emotional, or even hostile or violent. The individual may also experience a fluctuating sex drive. Memory loss may also occur; this is typically short-term and affects the ability to remember words or names.
  • Injuries – Injuries are common especially with individuals with epilepsy. A person with epilepsy may lose consciousness during an episode and may fall to the floor in an unsafe position. They could suffer from broken bones, such as a fractured skull from falling. They may also bite their tongue, lips or the inside of their cheeks when their jaws clamp together.
  • Accidents – Losing consciousness while driving or swimming could lead to death.

Food items or nutrients that may prevent myoclonus

Muscle cramps are a painful type of myoclonus. These are caused by overexertion and lack of stretching, poor circulation, dehydration and lack of certain nutrients. Even some medications can cause them.

To avoid muscle cramps, add more of the following in your diet:

  • Water – Dehydration often results in muscle pain. Drinking water can help to ensure that your body has enough fluids.
  • Sodium – This substance helps maintain normal body-fluid balance, nerve impulse generation and muscle contraction.
  • Calcium – When there’s little calcium, there are no controlled nerve signals, which causes spasms. Calcium controls the nerve signals that allow a muscle to contract.
  • Magnesium – Regulates adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a big energy source for muscle contraction, to make muscles relax.
  • Potassium – Potassium helps in muscle formation and nerve cells and also regulates the electrolyte balance in your body.

Vitamins for muscle twitches:

  • Vitamin B-6 – A deficiency in vitamin B-6 may be linked to certain musculoskeletal issues such as arm and leg cramps and muscle weakness. Vitamin B-6 is abundant in walnuts, cabbage, cantaloupe, eggs, fish, rice soybeans and peanuts.
  • Vitamin B-12 – A deficiency in vitamin B-12 can cause muscle spasms, tingling, soreness, weakness and numbness. Vitamin B-12 supports healthy nerves, the formation of red blood cells, and the synthesis of DNA. It is naturally found in fish, meat, poultry and eggs.
  • Vitamin D – Vitamin D is mainly produced in the skin when in contact with direct sunlight. It is also found in a few foods, including fatty fish, liver and cheese.

Treatments, management plans for myoclonus

Identify the cause of the myoclonus to find a viable solution.

  • If the twitching happens during sleep, simply changing your bedtime routine can help.
  • Stress-related twitching can be managed with some yoga and meditation.
  • Avoid twitching from dehydration by limiting your consumption of coffee, soda, and alcoholic drinks.
  • If the cause is a vitamin deficiency, vitamin supplements can alleviate symptoms. Consult your healthcare provider to help you identify the deficiency before taking vitamin supplements.
  • A good sleep at night can recharge the body for the next day.
  • Keep yourself warm when you sleep.

Where to learn more


Myoclonus is a condition marked by brief, shock-like contractions of a muscle or a group of muscles. It may involve a group of muscles in the upper arm or leg, or a group of facial muscles. It may also involve many muscles at the same time.

Hiccups are a common type of myoclonus. Epilepsy is a more serious form and may lead to injuries and accidents.

Sources include:


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