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Muscle twitches occur when nerves stimulate small areas of muscle.
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Because they are generally mild, muscle twitches often go unnoticed. Minor muscle contractions in either a muscle group or isolated muscle often occur after strenuous exercise. While generally mild and lasting only a few minutes, they may be a sign of an overworked muscle group or nutrient depletion. If you are prone to muscle twitches after exercise, changing your workout routine often resolves this symptom.
Muscle fatigue is the inability to continue exercising at the same intensity. The onset of fatigue varies greatly, depending on your fitness level, exercise intensity and the duration. Muscle fatigue occurs most often in three scenarios: short-term intense exercise, repeated-sprint exercise and extended exercise. In all of these scenarios, your body uses up its stores of energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate. When your body becomes deficient in ATP, muscles become fatigued, preventing you from exercising at the same intensity or perhaps even from continuing to exercise altogether.
Electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium regulate the electrical signals of muscle contraction, and must be maintained within tight ranges for muscles to work properly. However, strenuous exercise cause electrolyte loss through sweat, causing an imbalance of these essential nutrients. These imbalances cause unconscious muscle twitches until they are replenished, such as with an electrolyte-rich sports drink.
Recovery and Twitching
For muscles to contract, they must receive neural signals from the brain. Chemical substances that act as neural signals are present in high concentrations during strenuous exercise. After the muscles are fatigued, these chemical substances are recycled by the body to use again. However, this process takes time and until they are, muscle cells spontaneously contract with minor twitches. Gradually increasing your workload, warming up and stretching all help to reduce post-exercise muscle twitching. Increasing your workout intensity too much, too soon often causes twitches, but by avoiding pushing your muscles to complete fatigue and warming up properly, you may be able to prevent this symptom.
Preventing Muscle Twitches
Taking care to hydrate before and during a workout as well as warming up before exercise helps to avoid muscle twitches. Do not continue exercising after your muscles are fatigued or sore. Typically, muscle twitches resolve in the hour after you stop exercising, but if you notice that your muscle twitches are severe or last for hours, this symptom may be a sign of a more serious condition. Certain medications, neurological and muscular disorders cause sustained muscle twitches. If you notice your symptoms lasting, see your doctor to determine the root cause.