Myoclonus is commonly defined as the twitching of a single muscle or group of muscles. It is caused by a fast contraction or relaxation of the muscles and is characterized as being involuntary and brief. Such involuntary movements are often normal. Examples of simple and common myoclonic jerks include the following:
- Hiccups – The jerking occurs in the diaphragm.
- Stimulus-sensitive movement – These include a twitch or spasm caused by an external factor, such as a surprise, loud or unexpected noises, or a sudden change of light.
- Hypnic jerk – This is experienced in the first phases of sleep as an involuntary body spasm.
More serious cases of myoclonus, including frequent and more intense myoclonic jerks, can be a medical sign of a neurological or nervous system disorder. Conditions such as epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, brain tumors, multiple sclerosis, and spinal cord lesions are examples of these disorders.
The abnormal movements of myoclonus rarely need medical attention. However, a severe pathology of myoclonus might affect the normal performance of a person, including his or her ability to eat, walk, talk, or sleep. Treatments to reduce the symptoms consist of tranquilizer drugs, such as clonazepam, and medicines used for epilepsy.
How Are Muscle Twitches Related to Opioids?
Research has shown that some types of myoclonus can be triggered by abnormalities in specific neurotransmitter receptors. A deficiency in the opioid receptor is believed to be a cause for myoclonic jerks. Therefore, opioid induced myoclonus is not rare and includes many forms of muscle twitching, such as leg twitching.
Many also believe that using opioids for their tranquilizing and sedative properties is effective against severe cases of myoclonus. Others use opioids when common medications cause adverse reactions or begin to lose their effectiveness due to tolerance.
Opioids in the form of morphine or heroin—when abused or used without the supervision of a physician—can easily cause dependence and addiction. People who experience chronic pain because of widespread and persistent episodes of myoclonic jerks are susceptible to develop this kind of addiction. Giving attention to this problem becomes vitally important when considering the effects of withdrawal or overdose. Consider too that opioids can have negative reactions with medications for the condition that is causing the muscle twitching. Opioid rehab may be necessary for a complete and lasting recovery.
Overcoming an Opioid Addiction Is Possible
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