If you are like most people, you probably heard that involuntary thumb twitching is one of the more common symptoms of ALS and now you are worried! I am here to tell you that you should relax and that, in most cases, twitching in the thumb does not pose any serious threats to your health.
In today`s article, we are going to cover thumb twitching in more detail, explain why our muscles twitch and spasm and when is thumb twitching a sign of a more serious condition (ALS or carpal tunnel syndrome).
What Are Muscle Twitches And What Leads To It?
Muscle twitches are minor movements of a small muscle group and usually go unnoticed. Usually, they are normal and natural but they could indicate a problem with a person`s nervous system.
There are many different causes of muscle twitches and spasms, and these are some of the most common ones (according to the National Library of Medicine):
- Dehydration – lack of water and other fluids that prevent body from functioning properly
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Abnormal levels of electrolytes/minerals in our body
- Muscle overuse
- Kidney problems
- Panic or anxiety
- Side effect of some medication
- Nerve damage
Home and Professional Care
As I`ve already said, twitching and minor muscle spasms are generally not a cause for concern, but if you notice recurrent spasms over a certain amount of time, you should schedule an appointment with your health care provider.
As for home care, it depends on the root cause of muscle twitching, but it is general recommended to drink lots of fluid (water, tea etc.), start an aerobic exercise routine (swimming, running, walking, cycling etc.), take vitamin D or calcium supplements (under your doctor`s directions).
It is important to note that thumb-twitch is no different than twitching you notice (or fail to notice) on other parts of your body – arms, legs, back etc; we only tend to pay more attention to it because we can actually see the finger “jump”.
Most Common Causes Of Twitches In The Thumb
We already covered some of the most common causes our muscles twitch, but now we are going to talk a bit more about these directly related to the thumb:
- Video games – yes, parents were right video games are bad for you! On a more serious note, repetitive motion injury is probably the most common cause of thumb twitching. In our modern day and age, our thumbs are literally forced into awkward positions when we use our cell phones or play video games; this unnatural position may lead to the irritation and inflammation of the nerves and tendons that control muscles of our thumb.
- Mechanical injury – ligaments that surround and stabilize our thumb joint are vulnerable and prone to mechanical injuries. Repetitive movements can irritate and tear them, but they can also be damaged by a direct blow; ligaments injuries are also commonly spotted in sports where athletes are required to grab something between their index finger and thumb (skiing for example).
- Benign fasciculation syndrome – Benign fasciculation syndrome, or BFS, is a neurological disorder characterized by muscle twitching. As the name suggests, this disorder is benign, it will not cause any long-term physical damage and will often go into spontaneous remission.
ALS and Thumb Twitching
ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that damages motor neurons and causes the brain to lose control over muscle movement through the body. The affected person may lose the ability to speak, eat, move or even breathe.
Obviously, this is a serious condition and when people learn that one of the symptoms of ALS is twitches in the thumb they begin to panic.
But, it is important to note that muscle twitching comes after muscle weakness. So, if you didn`t notice any weakness in your thumb (when playing guitar, screwing caps on bottles etc.) chances are you don`t have ALS. If you do notice a certain weakness when performing these, or similar tasks, you should contact your doctor.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel is an area in your wrist through which median nerve ( the nerve that gives feeling and movement to the palm side of your hand) enters the hand. Swelling and constant pressure to this area can cause pain, numbness, tingling and involuntary twitching of your fingers (thumb included).
How Can You Tell If You`ve Got CTS?
If you suspect carpal tunnel syndrome is the cause of your involuntary thumb twitching, your best bet is to see a doctor, but there are a few tests you can do at home just to make sure:
- Tapping over carpal tunnel area – if this tapping results in sharp pain radiating towards your fingers, chances are you have CTS
- Flexing your wrist – if you flex your wrist and hold it for up to one minute and start feeling tingling, numbness and pain, this might be an indication of CTS
- Another sign of carpal tunnel syndrome is a weak hand grip
One of the more common causes of this condition is playing video games so resting will usually do the trick and relieve the symptoms.