Muscle Twitches in Fibromyalgia Syndrome
Muscle twitches, muscle spasms and cramps and restless legs seem to be common symptoms in fibromyalgia syndrome – one US doctor reported muscle twitching in 80% of her fibromyalgia syndrome patients. These symptoms can be painful and very distressing, and interfere with tasks in everyday life. They can also interfere with sleep, which is already a problem for many people with fibromyalgia syndrome.
Muscle TwitchesMuscle twitches are small contractions of single muscles and may be linked to the tender points in fibromyalgia syndrome. Depending on which muscle is affected, muscle twitching in fibromyalgia syndrome may be visible to other people, or may just be an odd and rhythmic sensation. The muscle twitches can simply be irritating, or can actually affect the ability to move, drive or hold and carry things. Muscle twitches at night can stop people sleeping.
Muscle twitches may be related to muscle overuse, strain or injury, and may be worsened by stress, anxiety or caffeine. Some drugs may cause muscle twitching as a side effect. Stretching and massaging the muscle that is twitching can help, and gentle exercise may lessen or stop it happening (see ‘Exercise and Fibromyalgia Syndrome’), though it’s probably a good idea for people with fibromyalgia syndrome to consult their doctor before starting an exercise programme.
Drug treatments for muscle twitching in fibromyalgia syndrome include anti-inflammatory and painkilling drugs as tablets, creams or patches, as well as muscle relaxant drugs. Magnesium supplements may also help, but consult a doctor or pharmacist before combining over the counter drugs or supplements with any existing medication, and don’t exceed the stated dose.
Restless Legs SyndromeRestless legs syndrome is a crawling or tickling sensation under the skin and in the muscles of the legs, and is associated with an almost irresistible urge to move the legs. It is more common in the evening and when tired, though in severe cases it can happen during the day, and may also affect the arms. Like muscle twitches, restless legs syndrome can affect sleep. It appears to have a genetic element, and is more common in people with fibromyalgia syndrome.
Getting up and moving about can help the symptoms of restless legs syndrome, as can stretching out the leg muscles. Iron supplements may help (but watch out as some people find they have gastric side effects). In severe cases of restless legs syndrome, drug treatments can help, including some drugs used in Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy. Exercise may help prevent restless legs syndrome.
Muscle Spasms and CrampsSome people with fibromyalgia syndrome find that their muscles will go into spasm, or they get cramps (when a muscle painfully contracts), especially in the leg. This can be very painful.
Gently stretching and massaging the muscle may help, and using heat (perhaps a hot shower or bath), ice or a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) machine can help soothe and ease the cramped and painful muscle, as can muscle rubs. It’s a good idea to avoid getting dehydrated, as this can make cramps more likely.