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What Causes Thumb Twitching?

By Rebecca Mecomber
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Muscle twitching is the presence of uncontrollable muscle contractions that might be temporary or chronic. When this occurs in the thumb, it can be referred to as thumb twitching, and it might occur for a variety of reasons, including overuse of the muscle from playing video games or texting, nutritional deficiencies, carpal tunnel syndrome or restricted blood flow. Other causes might include neurological disorders, side effects from prescription drugs, anxiety or a chronic state of tension. Muscle contractions are very common, and most cases of thumb twitching are benign, but ongoing twitching indicate a serious condition.

Repetitive motion injury is a very common cause of thumb twitching. Video game modules and remotes, cell phones and other electronic gadgets require unnatural and constant use of the thumb, irritating the nerves that control the thumb muscles. The thumb might exhibit annoying muscle contractions, tingling, burning pain or tendinitis from the constant stress.

Carpal tunnel syndrome, a type of nerve trauma in which the median nerve is unduly compressed, might cause thumb twitching but is usually associated with wrist pain or burning in the wrist joint. Repetitive motion injury and carpal tunnel syndrome usually are relieved when the offending actions are ceased, although carpal tunnel syndrome might have underlying causes ranging from genetic factors to more serious physiological factors such as fibroids.

Thumb twitching might be caused by an imbalance of electrolytes from nutritional deficiencies in the diet. A deficiency of calcium or magnesium has been shown to cause muscle spasms and cramps throughout the body, including in the thumbs. Drug side effects might also cause the fingers and thumbs to spasm. Drugs such as corticosteroids, estrogens, diuretics and caffeine stimulate muscles, which might initiate twitching. Extreme anxiety releases hormones that upset the balance of the nervous system, causing muscle spasms that might include the thumbs.

Chronic thumb twitching with a gradual loss of muscle coordination is usually a sign of more serious neurologic disorders. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a progressive and debilitating nerve disease. ALS symptoms usually begin with muscle spasms in the chest and rib area, which progress down the arm and sometimes afflict the thumb. Multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's syndrome also affect the nerves that control the muscles, including the thumb. Although many cases of thumb twitching are benign and are caused by environmental factors, ongoing spasms that get more and more serious require medical diagnosis to determine the underlying cause.

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Discussion Comments

By anon310511 — On Dec 24, 2012

@Summing: Buy your dad a wrist support for him to wear at night. They hold the wrists in a slight extension and relieve pressure on the nerve. It might take two or three nights, but hopefully he should see some improvement with numbness at night and pain during the day. They feel a bit weird to sleep in, but I found the benefit of reduced pain more than compensated for that.

By summing — On Jul 09, 2011

My dad has a pretty severe case of carpal tunnel syndrome related to a lifetime spent working with machinery that vibrated a lot. It is a pretty terrible disorder. Most of his symptoms relate to pain in the wrist and a loss of flexibility and mobility but those are not all.

He occasionally gets a twitch in his fingers. It is not limited to the thumb but also shows up occasionally in his index fingers and one of his ring fingers. But always these fingers, never any others.

He is a stoic old guy and he has always resisted getting treatment. I really wish he would but he is hard to convince. He thinks that thumb twitches and finger twitching is something he can live with but I really wonder about the pain. Maybe one day I will be able to convince him to actually see a doctor about it.

By truman12 — On Jul 09, 2011

I used to have a pretty severe thumb twitch. At times it almost looked like a hummingbird wing when it would really get going. It wasn't a constant thing but it would happen pretty frequently, probably one bad outburst a day.

I went to a few different doctors and they couldn't offer me any help. They did tests of course but they all said they came back inconclusive and that any treatment would probably have worse symptoms than my twitchy thumb.

Eventually I began to see a psychiatrist for a different problem. I was diagnosed with anxiety and I began to take medication. Pretty soon my thumb twitching stopped. It turns out it was some kind of nervous tic . It was never that bad, not that embarrassing or debilitating, but I'm still glad it's gone.

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