Muscle twitches in children are sudden, uncontrollable muscle movements or jerks in their bodies. Muscle twitching, also known as myoclonus, could be repetitive and triggered by certain factors and postures. Though muscle twitching is not a disease, it could indicate various underlying conditions in the brain and nervous system.
Twitches may occur in a single muscle or multiple muscles at a time. In addition, multiple muscle twitching might occur in the areas of the body involving nerves that serve common muscles.
This condition can be managed in children by modifying their diets or sleep patterns. First, however, you should contact a healthcare provider who might evaluate the underlying causes of twitching and suggest suitable interventions to avoid future complications.
Explore more about the types, possible causes, symptoms, diagnostic tests, treatment options, and preventive strategies for muscle twitches in children in this post.
Types Of Muscle Twitches (Myoclonus) In Children
There are two basic types of muscle twitches (1).
- Positive myoclonus, which causes contraction of a muscle or muscle groups.
- Negative myoclonus, a sudden uncontrollable or involuntary muscle relaxation. Sudden muscle relaxation may cause a walking or standing person to fall.
The following types of myoclonus are seen in children based on the underlying cause and triggers (2).
- Essential myoclonus is stable (unchanged) over time, and there is no known underlying cause.
- Opsoclonus myoclonus, also known as dancing eyes-dancing feet syndrome, is a rare condition where rapid, irregular eye movements are seen with muscle spasms. This may often occur due to viral fevers, tumors, etc.
- Action myoclonus occurs when the child moves or tries to move. It is the most severe type, since the muscle spasms may disable arms, face, legs, and voice.
- Stimulus sensitive myoclonus is triggered by an external stimulus such as light, noise, or body movement or a specific body position.
It is essential to understand the cause and triggers of muscle twitching in children to eliminate it. Knowing about the type of muscles affected during the myoclonus episode is vital for evaluating the condition’s severity.
Causes Of Muscle Twitches In Children
The exact cause of muscle twitching is not well understood. An abnormal electrical impulse from parts of the central nervous system (CNS) such as the brain stem, cortex, or nerves to the muscle or a group of muscles causes muscle twitches. Damage to the peripheral nerves (nerves outside CNS) supplying muscle fibers may also cause myoclonic episodes.
- Head injuries
- Birth hypoxia
- Genetic disorders
- Spinal cord injuries
- Epilepsy disorders
- Brain tumors
- Liver failure
- Kidney failure
- Hypoxia (lack of oxygen)
- Nervous system diseases
- Nerve damages
- Lack of sleep
- Poor nutrition intake
- Side effects of certain medications
- Hormonal imbalances
- Certain chemicals
Conditions or diseases affecting the neural mechanism of muscular control may also lead to abnormal muscle movements. Children with frequent muscle twitches may require detailed analysis to identify and treat the underlying cause.
Symptoms Of Muscle Twitches In Children
- Poor muscle tone
- Tight muscles
- Tingling sensation
- Muscle becomes smaller
- Uncontrolled, jerky muscle movements
- Clumsy movements
- Poor body balance
The signs and symptoms may vary depending on the underlying cause. A doctor may look for the muscles involved and triggers to diagnose the condition.
Diagnosis For Myoclonus In Children
A detailed medical history is obtained by the pediatrician to identify the possible causes and types of myoclonus. The doctor may also ask details about the signs and symptoms, possible triggers, the muscles involved, duration of twitching, etc.
According to the basic evaluation, more tests are ordered to confirm the underlying causes. These tests may include (7):
- Electromyography to assess the muscle activity in response to electrical impulses
- Electroencephalograph (EEG) to evaluate the electrical activity of the brain
- Imaging tests such as MRI, CT, PET scan, etc., to identify brain pathologies, such as tumors
- Nerve conduction studies
- Blood tests to look for viral infections, certain genetic conditions, etc.
The pediatrician will evaluate the results of the test to identify the underlying causes and begin appropriate treatment.
Treatment For Muscle Twitches In Children
The treatment options may vary depending on the cause of the disease. If the reasons are not identifiable on examination, symptom-relieving medications are prescribed to manage the condition. These may include the following options (8). Most are neurological drugs that help relax the nervous system or nerves.
- Drugs such as sedatives, tranquilizers (clonazepam), or anticonvulsants may be prescribed.
- Boys may receive treatment with anticonvulsants, such as valproic acid (Depakene). Valproic acid may cause side effects such as polycystic ovarian disease and weight gain in girls. Thus, girls may receive lamotrigine (Lamictal) for treating myoclonus.
- Topiramate (Topamax), levetiracetam (Keppra), and zonisamide (Zonegran) are other anticonvulsants of choice for treating muscle twitches.
- Sedatives such as barbiturates could reduce muscle twitches since they decrease brain activities.
- Treatment of the underlying cause.
- Surgical removal and chemotherapy for tumors could improve twitches if it is the cause.
- Behavioral therapy may be initiated if a lack of sleep is the cause.
- If the episode is triggered by light, movement, etc., it is recommended to avoid triggers as much as possible.
Depending on the severity and cause, the doctor may prescribe medications or procedures. Some conditions are curable with treatment, whereas few cases may require long-term management.
Home Care For Muscle Twitches In Children
Muscle twitching caused by certain lifestyle triggers can be managed with home remedies. These may include (9):
- Eat healthily
- Get good sleep
- Avoid caffeinated beverages, such as energy drinks, coffee, etc.
- Stay hydrated
- Exercise regularly
- Try to keep anxiety and stress at bay
- Use dim lights if light triggers muscle twitches
You may discuss with a pediatrician if the muscle twitches don’t get well with home care measures. Seek medical care for detailed analysis and follow home care measures if modifiable lifestyle factors are causing twitches.
Muscle twitches in children are involuntary muscle movements that could be triggered either due to dehydration or an underlying cause of epilepsy. Therefore, it is advised to keep a check on the factors that induce these cramps in children and consult the doctor for a confirmed diagnosis. The doctor might either provide medicines to control the symptoms or other medications depending upon the cause of the condition. However, you must ensure that your child gets enough sleep, eats healthy, and stays protected from any triggers.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. When should I worry about muscle twitching?
It is advised to consult a doctor if you notice frequent muscle twitches that affect your ability to work at a normal pace, accompanied by headaches and seizures (1).
2. Is it normal to experience muscle twitching every day?
Frequent muscle twitching may be due to non-serious underlying factors. However, consult a medical professional/pediatrician to rule out any serious underlying issues
- Epilepsy disorders and dehydration are significant causes of muscle twitching in children.
- Electromyography, electroencephalography, imaging tests, and blood tests, including electrolyte measurements, may help identify the cause of muscle twitching.
- Muscle twitching is treated according to the cause, and long-term medications are often required for children with epilepsy disorders and seizures.
2. Myoclonus Fact Sheet; The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
3. Muscle Twitching; MedlinePlus; The United States National Library of Medicine
4. Myclonus; Bayer Medicine
5. What Causes Muscle Twitches?; Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital; Johns Hopkins Medicine
6. Myoclonic Epilepsy; Cedars Sinai
7. What You Need To Know About Muscle Twitching?; Medindia
8. John N. Caviness; Treatment of Myoclonus; The United States National Library of Medicine
9. Why do my muscles twitch?; Wexner Medical Center; The Ohio State University