Thumb twitching could be a sign of a more serious disease: Know the causes

Does your thumb move involuntarily at times? While sometimes it is because of overworked muscles, it could also mean something more serious. Here's what causes involuntary thumb twitching and what you can do about it.
causes of thumb twitching
Know the causes of thumb twitching. Image courtesy: Adobe stock
Arushi Bidhuri Published: 11 Jul 2023, 10:30 am IST
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You are working on your project, and suddenly you discover that your thumb has a secret dance routine, should you be worried? It happens to be a condition called involuntary thumb twitching. It refers to the involuntary, spastic movement of your thumb that seems to move on its own. It could be a subtle tremor, a quick movement or a wiggle. But what is it that causes it and how can you fix it?

Health Shots reached out Dr Rahul Rai Kakkar, Psychiatrist, Sanar International Hospitals, Gurugram, and Dr Abhijit G. Warade, Consultant – Neuro Surgery, P.D. Hinduja Hospital & MRC, Mahim, Mumbai.

What causes involuntary thumb twitching?

The causes of thumb twitching can vary from one individual to another. While in some cases, excessive and aggressive exercise can result in twitching caused by muscle contraction, it can be inherited in others. In some cases, it is a symptom of some underlying diseases that may either temporarily or live with it due to some genetic reasons, explains Dr Kakkar. Some of the common causes of involuntary thumb twitching include, as pointed out by the experts:

1. Low magnesium levels

Did you know our bodies don’t produce magnesium itself? Yes, which is why it is crucial to eat foods rich in magnesium. Plus, a magnesium deficiency can lead to muscle tightening and twitching, which is called Hypomagnesia. While your body doesn’t produce magnesium itself, it’s deficiency can disturb the absorption of other nutrients. Dr Kakkar recommends eating more spinach, banana, whole grain, and lentils are some of the good sources of magnesium.

Also Read: 7 signs you are suffering from magnesium deficiency

2. Stress

Stress in inevitable, and how much are you letting it affect you? Stress, strong emotions and irritability can potentially result in muscle strain in many cases, which is a potential symptom of stress and anxiety.

3. Disturbed sleeping pattern

If you keep yourself sleep-deprived, then neurotransmitters are built in your brain which often cause muscle strain or involuntary shaking, adds the expert.

4. Medication

Over a period of time, some of the medication may also cause muscle and thumb twitching. Steroids and supplements such as anti-epileptics like phenytoin and carbamazepine are some such medicines, avers Dr Warade.

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5. Muscle fatigue or overuse

Continuous or repetitive movements resulting in muscle overactivity such as playing video games, typing , can strain the muscles in the thumb, leading to twitching, as per Dr Kakkar.

Serious causes of involuntary thumb twitching

Here are some more serious cases of involuntary thumb twitching, according to Dr Warade:

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1. Brain lesions

Brain tumours or infective lesions in the brain (Tuberculoma, Neurocysticercosis), a certain fraction of them based on their critical location can present in the form of involuntary thumb movements. While it can lead to thumb twitching, it is not a very common condition.

2. Benign essential tremor aka familial tremor

These are fine involuntary movements involving the fingers of both hands.
The tremors become more pronounced during movements. It is on and off, worsens as age advances, and can get worsened in stressful situations. The intensity and frequency increase in severity over a period of time and as age advances. It is usually hereditary. It affects both males and females, however it is more prominent in men.

3. Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive disorder that affects our nervous system and manifests in the form of tremors and other symptoms in the form of stiffness and slowness of movement. It can also be associated with mood changes, difficulty in eating, tiredness, constipation, memory disturbances, delusions and hallucinations. It is commonly seen in males. The cause of PD is not known.

Other serious causes of the condition include:

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Nerve damage (neuropathy)
  • Spinal muscular atrophy
  • Muscle weakness (myopathy)
  • Physiological (e.g., anxiety, fear, anger)
  • Stroke
  • Head injury
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Drug overdose
  • Alcohol dependency
  • Hereditary causes like Wilson’s disease

How to prevent involuntary thumb twitching?

While there is no specific treatment to cure the condition, your healthcare provider may recommend the course of treatment according to involuntary thumb twitching. The underlying causes are treated in order to control presenting symptoms and the condition causing the problem. Your doctor may recommend some muscle-strengthening exercises. You should keep an eye on the triggers and check with your healthcare provider if it continues to appear.

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About the Author

Arushi Bidhuri is a journalist with 6 years of experience in writing, editing, and conceptualizing story ideas in different genres, including health and wellness, lifestyle, politics, beauty, fashion, etc. Arushi has a strong connection in the industry that helps her write concise and original stories as she believes in working towards writing pieces that can enlighten people. ...Read More

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