Benign fasciculation syndrome (muscle twitch) is a neurological disorder that affects parts of the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. Neurological disorders in general can be mild or quite severe, depending on their cause.
In some cases, neurological disorders are not associated with another condition. In benign fasciculation syndrome, the muscles rapidly contract and relax, causing the muscle to twitch. It is considered a less severe but highly annoying neurological disorder.
Benign fasciculation syndrome (BFS) is the occasional or nearly continuous twitching of voluntary muscles. There are many reasons for muscle twitches ranging in severity, including multiple sclerosis and ALS. In BFS, the cause is often not serious and not associated with a disease, disability, or injury, hence the term benign. Even though the cause may not be serious, it doesn’t change the fact that it can be quite annoying to live with.
Benign fasciculation syndrome symptoms
Symptoms of BFS are most commonly noticed when a person is at rest. BFS can move from one muscle area to another. Symptoms of BFS include:
- Overall fatigue and pain in the affected muscles
- Anxiety as a result of not knowing what is causing the twitch
- Intolerance to physical activity
- Sensation of having lump in throat – can be a result of anxiety
- Numbness or tingling of the affected muscles
- Cramps of the muscles
- Exaggerated tendon reflexes
- Tremors or itchiness
- Sudden muscle contractions
- Muscle stiffness
Also read: Involuntary muscle movement: Causes, types, and treatment
Benign fasciculation syndrome causes
The exact cause of BFS is still unknown, but there are theories that may help explain some of the root causes. Causes of BFS may include overexertion of the muscle, chronic organophosphate poisoning (additional research is required to further investigate this cause), taking certain drugs like anticholinergics (e.g., diphenhydramine), opiates (e.g., morphine), a magnesium deficiency, neuropathies, anxiety, regular strenuous exercise, ADHD and drugs to treat the condition, and essential tremors that are not associated with a disease.
Electrolyte imbalances such as decreased levels of magnesium and calcium can also cause muscle twitching.
Benign fasciculation syndrome has been shown to be associated with:
- Anxiety or depression
- High-intensity, strenuous exercise
- Drinking alcohol or caffeine
- Smoking cigarettes
- Recent viral infection
Medications linked to the condition include:
- Diphenhydramine (Benadryl, Nytol)
- Dimenhydrinate (Dramamine)
- Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed)
- Salbutamol (Proventil, Combivent, Ventolin) used for asthma bronchodilation
- Methylphenidate (Ritalin)
Benign fasciculation syndrome diagnosis and treatment
Diagnosis of BFS begins with ruling out other health conditions muscle twitches may be symptomatic of. This may involve testing for multiple sclerosis and ALS, and other neuropathies. Your doctor may conduct a thorough neurological examination and have you undergo electromyography (EMG) to rule out any real nerve damage, which BFS is not associated with.
Your doctor will also test for muscle weakness, have you undergo strength tests for clinical weakness and resistance strength tests, and examine your tendon reflexes.
Treatment for BFS may include medications to treat any tremors, psychological counseling, magnesium supplements in case of deficiency, and anti-inflammatory medication for patients with pain and inflammation.
It’s also important to reduce daily stress to reduce anxiety as it can worsen BFS.
Natural remedies for benign fasciculation syndrome
Natural remedies can be used to treat BFS and reduce symptoms associated with the condition in order for you to live a normal life all the while reducing stress. Here are some of those natural remedies you can try in order to treat your BFS.
- Develop a stress management routine either with yoga, breathing exercises, or essential oils.
- Eat well and exercise regularly.
- Try getting a massage and opt for an aromatherapy massage for added stress-reducing benefits.
- Eat fruits and nuts rich in magnesium like bananas, avocados, leafy greens, and dark chocolate.
- Reduce caffeine intake.
- Take Epsom salt baths.
If BFS is overtaking your life, speak to your doctor about other treatment options you can benefit from.
How long does benign fasciculation syndrome last?
Symptoms of BFS may last for months or even years. In some cases, symptoms may continue to linger. Symptoms may also come and go with periods of remission while other times they may be more prominent while others they are much milder. In some instances, remission periods may become longer over time with symptomatic episodes occurring less and less.
Benign fasciculation syndrome vs ALS
BFS and ALS may present similar symptoms which can cause the confusion in diagnosis. The main difference between BFS and ALS is that in ALS muscles waste away causing the individual to become weaker. Muscle wasting does not occur in BFS.
Similarly, both conditions cause muscle fasciculations.
There is no link between BFS and ALS so patients should not be worried that their BFS can worsen and turn into ALS.
Benign fasciculations may be difficult to treat, but usually, resolve on their own. If your particular cause of muscle twitching is causing you excessive amounts of distress, seeing a doctor is recommended. This will help pinpoint a diagnosis and find the best treatment option if due to a previously unknown underlying condition.
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