Can Stress Cause Muscle Twitches and Spasms?

Written by: Anugraha Joseph – BA (Psychology)
Last updated date : August 22, 2022

Stress can often be a many-headed monster. Its effects can show up in the strangest and most unexpected corners of your life. Perhaps you found the title surprising. “Really? Stress can cause muscle twitches and spasms?”

In this article, you can find out if and how this happens. You will read the effects of stress on different parts of the body, including the muscles. You will also see how to cope with the effects of stress, especially in the muscles.

Stress can often be a many-headed monster. Its effects can show up in the strangest and most unexpected corners of your life. Perhaps you found the title surprising. “Really? Stress can cause muscle twitches and spasms?”

In this article, you can find out if and how this happens. You will read the effects of stress on different parts of the body, including the muscles. You will also see how to cope with the effects of stress, especially in the muscles.

Chapter 1:
Stress and Its Effects

What is stress? It’s a commonly used word, but can be hard to define. Psychologists often define stress as your response to a challenge for which you don’t have the required resources. In other words, it is a situation where you face a challenge you can’t cope with. You may feel frustrated, angry or nervous. We can also define stress as physical or emotional tension.

Everyone experiences stress now and then. Your body handles stress by sending out chemicals that affect different parts of your body and help you to cope with the stressful situation. This is often called the ‘fight or flight’ response. Your body thinks it’s in danger and prepares itself to either “fight” the danger or “fly” (run) from it. Your breathing, your muscles, your digestive system, your sight are all affected by this response.

Once the stressful situation has passed, your body counters this effect and brings the body back to normal. However, if the stress continues for a long time or barely ever stops, then your body never has the chance to come back to normal.

Prolonged stress, therefore, can have numerous effects on the mind and body. Stress can cause tension headaches and increase the chances that you will have depression. It can increase blood pressure, blood sugar and the risk of a heart attack. It can affect your immune system, your breathing and even your reproductive system, no matter what gender you are.

To sum up: continuous stress is bad for you. Let’s look at muscles and how stress can affect them.

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Chapter 2:
What Are Muscle Twitches and Spasms?

Muscle twitches and spasms are both involuntary contractions of the muscles in the body. That means we can’t control them. Twitches are different from spasms, though.

A twitch is a short contraction that may happen multiple times. It may be uncomfortable but is not usually painful. A spasm is a longer contraction that may be painful. They often occur after exercise, and are also called muscle cramps.

Stress Can Cause Muscle Twitches and Muscle Spasms

As surprising as it may sound, stress causes muscle twitches and spasms.

We saw above how stress makes the body release chemicals that affect your whole body. These chemicals also affect the muscles of your body. How do they do this? The stress response prepares your body for fight or flight. This means making the muscles ready for action. The nerves connected to your muscles release chemicals called neurotransmitters to do this. But when this stress response continues over a long time with no relaxation, the neurotransmitters can make your muscles twitch.

However, it is also important to remember that stress is not the only cause of muscle twitches. If you have muscle twitches and you’re not sure of the cause, be sure to get your health checked. Here are some other reasons for muscles twitches: overexertion, not enough sleep, various vitamin deficiencies, too much caffeine, dehydration and even some medical conditions.

If you know that stress is the likely cause of your muscle twitches, then what can you do? Here are some tips that may help you.

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Chapter 3:
How to Ease Muscle Twitches Caused by Stress

Move!

Exercise, even gentle exercise, can help reduce the effect of stress on your body. This includes muscle twitches and spasms caused by stress. A walk or gently stretching your muscles will help to reduce the tension. Incorporating more active types of exercise will also be beneficial for your physical and mental health in multiple ways.

Breathe!

Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises can help you lose the tension accumulated in your muscles from stress. Try a simple breathing technique like 444: inhale slowly for 4 seconds, then hold your breath for 4 seconds, and finally release your breath slowly for 4 seconds. You can simply count to four instead of looking at a watch.

Meditate.

If meditation comes naturally to you or seems interesting, try mindfulness meditation. It helps you to keep your mind in the here and now, and works well as a relaxation technique.

Cut Down on Some Harmful Habits.

You may really want those cups of coffee to pick up your energy through the day, but unhealthy habits like too much caffeine, smoking, alcohol or addictive substances can actually increase the effect stress has on your body.

Sleep.

Sleeping may not seem very important when you have lots to do, or it may have become very difficult to do because of how stressed you are. Either way, try and get six to eight hours of sleep a day. Consistenly losing sleep can badly damage your health, and increase the effect of stress on your muscles. Help your muscles to relax by letting them rest completely for a few hours a day!

Journal.

Writing or typing your thoughts can be a good way to declutter your mind and destress. You can also keep track of your stress, including your emotions and physical symptoms such as muscle twitches and spasms. Keep up the habit, and you may even start to see patterns where stress in your life causes your muscle spasms and twitches.

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Chapter 4:
Summing Up: Stress Can Cause Muscle Twitches and Spasms

In the end, no matter what symptoms you may be having because of stress, reducing the stress will help to reduce those symptoms. Depending on your circumstances, just a few changes in your lifestyle may help you a great deal! Remember also to reach out to others and not isolate yourself because of stress. If you feel that you need more help than lifestyle changes, reach out to a therapist or a counsellor. Stress has a variety of effects on our bodies. But you don’t need to live with them. Using the information above, make a plan that works for you so you can minimise stress and its effects on your body, such as muscle twitches and spasms. In addition, the reduction in stress levels will help you live a happier and more fulfilled life. Wishing you a relaxed tomorrow, where stress causes neither twitches nor muscle spasms! If you’d like to find out more about muscle pain, you can look up Muscle Aches – Everything You Need To Know on our site. You may also benefit from our courses on related subjects, such as Coping With Chronic Pain.