1/17/12

Living with Benign Fasciculation Syndrome: Causes, Treatments

Benign fasciculation syndrome is a fancy name that simply means harmless muscle twitching that’s accompanied by cramping and maybe exercise intolerance. Technically, everybody experiences benign fasciculation syndrome sooner or later.
The variables are duration and magnitude, not to mention the ALS scare that benign fasciculation syndrome often induces. In fact, a fear of ALS has been known to cause full-blown benign fasciculation syndrome.

This is how it all begins for many:
1)   A twitching muscle becomes annoying. It may be very local or all over the legs—anywhere, actually.
2) You do an Internet search on “cause of muscle twitching” or similar.
3)  ALS sites pop up in the first page of results.
4)  You start thinking you have ALS because one possible ALS symptom is muscle twitching.
5) Terror sweeps over you and your muscle twitching spreads throughout your body.
6) You begin perceiving weakness and even some cramping.
7)  Nearly every waking moment is spent worrying about ALS (or multiple sclerosis).

What’s really happening is that the mind is playing tricks on you. Another factor (which I’ll detail in a moment) is your lack of understanding of how Internet search engines work.

A person may no longer have an ALS fear yet still be taunted by benign fasciculation syndrome, in that twitching muscles can be nearly nonstop and really annoying.

How is benign fasciculation syndrome treated, managed or cured?
  • Managing anxiety is a major way to suppress benign fasciculation syndrome, since anxiety is a major cause of twitching muscles.
  • Recognizing triggers of muscle twitching will go a long way. In my case, common triggers are trail running, hill dashing and power hiking.
  • Waiting out the storm. The more time under your belt from the institution of muscle twitching, the more reassurance you’ll have that this is not ALS, as ALS is progressive.
  • Buy a calendar and every day place a shiny red star on it to track time under your belt. Before you know it you’ll have a cluster of stars equating to lengthy time passage—without any neurological regress if all you have is benign fasciculation syndrome.
Other causes of benign fasciculation syndrome or just plain muscle twitching:
1)    Calcium, magnesium or potassium deficiency
2)    Fatigue, eye strain
3)    Medications and medication cessation
4)    Viral infections
5)    Lyme disease
6)    Strenuous exercise
7)    No known cause

When searching for a cause of muscle twitching, why do so many ALS sites show up?
Back to my comment about Internet search engines. There is NO correlation between search engine results and the most likely cause of a symptom!

I specialize in search engine optimization writing, and believe me, if I write enough articles claiming that muscle twitching is caused by eating white bread, the first page of search results will show my articles! 

Someone searching for causes of muscle twitching will then see all my page links and conclude, “Gee, I better stop eating white bread!”

Benign fasciculation syndrome isn’t a pathological process or disease in the true sense. It’s just a fancy name. Muscles were meant to twitch while we’re under stress. The theory is that they are on standby for a flight or fight response.

What does a neurologist have to say about muscle twitching?

“The key point with benign fasciculations is that, for whatever reason, they occur but do not represent an ominous underlying condition,” says Kristina Lafaye, M.D., board certified neurologist, assistant clinical professor of neurology at Tulane University School of Medicine, full time clinical staff and director of the neurophysiology lab at Ochsner Medical Center.

“Yes, some people with benign fasciculations could experience them 24/7 (or so they say, I'm a little skeptical of that), but if nothing else is wrong, then I wouldn't probe further. I don't do any kind of a frequency count, because if a person doesn't have evidence of denervation which, if present, would indicate a MND, myelopathy, or some other condition, then it doesn't warrant any further neurologic evaluation.”

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