Why is my girlfriend uncontrollably twitching and spasming?
February 9, 2009 2:22 AM   Subscribe

My girlfriend uncontrollably twitches and spasms while around me. Possible explanations? (slightly NSFW)

It all started a few weeks into our relationship, following the first time we had sex. After we finished, amidst a great deal of excitement, emotion, and built up sexual tension (she didn't climax), her legs began to shake and twitch uncontrollably. She mentioned she didn't really know what was happening, and I was more flattered than anything. They gradually subsided.

From that period on however, throughout the year we've been dating, she has experienced muscle twitches of varying intensity when around me. They used to be single twitches, in the legs, spaced as closely as 5 or 10 seconds apart, but strangely enough they seem to have migrated to her torso after having her legs pinned down during one twitching incident. Recently the single twitches have been interspersed with rapid spasms that almost seem to catch her breath.

She reports that they happen only when focusing on me, and the only way she can stop them is by shifting her focus. Recently they have been precipitated more by "loving" thoughts, although sexual thoughts can do it as well and sometimes she responds to my inquisitions with, "I was thinking about your hand on my arm" or "I was focusing too much on your breathing next to me." They happen most often in intimate situations where we are touching, such as laying on the bed together, although they've happened without any physical contact.

Needless to say I like them. Uncontrollable muscle spasms speak louder than words right? Yet oftentimes they are so uncontrollable that they become a frustrating nuisance to her, and there is understandably some curiosity (and slight concern) as to what the medical basis is. She says they've never happened to her before, and neither her nor I have ever heard of anything like it.

Is this common? Has this happened to anybody else? And, although it doesn't seem it so far, should this be something to be concerned about?
posted by Defenestrator to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Well, this used to be me during sex. I'd say it's quite unusually if it happens outside of sexual contact, but it might be related. For me it was very frustrating because I could never climax even though my legs were going crazy. I had only had one orgasm before and I wanted to have more. The answer in my case was regular umm... self-pleasuring, where I found I could get to climax without any leg movement if I did it slowly and carefully. I thankfully found a boyfriend who was willing to work this through. If I started twitching, he would stop and I would take over the touching. Gradually he learned to work on me without causing it. There are certain things in my case that trigger it I guess and he's learned not to do them just through trial and error. I know for a fact that even though the twitching seemed awesome/flattering and like I was going to come to some past boyfriends, that it's quite the opposite. I am unfortunately silent if things are going well, though I try to give some feedback and I've also had some success with breathing exercises.

Also, my leg muscles are very tight in general and they do annoying things in other situations like during class or when I drink too much (restless leg syndrome?), so I try to exercise them now to get rid of the tension by doing yoga and sprints. Someone also suggested eating more potassium to help with the tense legs, which I now do.

I'd also look at this question, which might give you an idea about what your GF is going through.
posted by idle at 3:13 AM on February 9, 2009

Thanks for taking the time to answer idle. I want to mention though, in case the answers go off tangent, that she doesn't feel the shaking affects her ability to have an orgasm, and it doesn't even occur (or is not noticeable) while we're having sex. The intense leg shaking happened after our first time, and still happens occasionally afterwards if she gets extremely turned on but doesn't climax before I finish, but that's really the extent.

Also, it occurred to me it would be a good idea to include an email for anonymous comments. I figure you never know:


Thank you all in advance!
posted by Defenestrator at 3:58 AM on February 9, 2009

This is a total long-shot and most likely NOT what is happening to your gf, but I'm throwing it out there anyway as something to consider. There are some types of epilepsy that show up as muscle spasms and in no way impair consciousness. I would simply recommend that she mention the spasms to her MD and confirm that it's probably nothing.

And yes, sex can trigger epileptic "episodes."

If this is some form of epilepsy, there are plenty of good medications to control it if it's really making her uncomfortable.

(IANAD. IAAE = I am an epileptic.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:23 AM on February 9, 2009

I am NOT a doctor, and it seems like your girlfriend probably should see one.

But, my thought is that muscle tension and twitches can be a symptom of anxiety, and it could be that thoughts of you might be triggering anxiety in her which in turn triggers the twitching (I've been 'tirggered' this way in the past). That's not to say it means you make her "nervous" or worried per se. Just that for whatever reason, proximity to a lover, or thoughts of the same, might be tied to an anxious reaction for her. If that's the case then it may be something that can be avoided or mitigated by e.g. CBT, or psychiatric/medicinal help may be needed (if it's problematic for you or her or if anxiety is affecting her in other ways).
posted by Drexen at 4:57 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is not a situation that you want to continue. Our bodies are relatetivly easy to condition and this could become more difficult to treat the longer it goes on. Whatever she decides to do please find an approach that involves more than simply treating symptoms.

Chinese Medicine has models and methods to deal with "windy" conditions such as this.
posted by pointilist at 8:20 AM on February 9, 2009

That really, really sounds like an anxiety attack to me. IANYD.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:57 AM on February 9, 2009

I do this all the time! I don't know what it is, but when I make physical contact with people - and especially in the beginnings of new relationships - I get all nervous and twitchy. What makes it worse is if I think about it, because then I'm focusing on the twitch I just twitch even more.

What has helped me is deep breathing, trying to relax all over, and being VERY forgiving of myself if I am twitching. Getting freaked out about it or castigating myself just makes it worse.
posted by harperpitt at 9:30 AM on February 9, 2009

The anxiety factor is an interesting possibility, and she DOES have problems with anxiety in general. However I would find it suspect that, if she is getting slightly anxious, that no other anxieties seem to trigger this, and that she, despite being very familiar with the anxious feeling, has never described herself as "anxious". It does however seem to increase in severity when she focuses on it and becomes more frustrated about it, but that might just be because we're focusing on it.
posted by Defenestrator at 10:43 AM on February 9, 2009

Does she have any sleep disorders? I ask because people with narcolepsy frequently also suffer from cataplexy, which is kind-of like a seizure, but tends to occur during emotional stress (both the good and bad kinds).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:06 AM on February 9, 2009

I agree with the theory of the anxiety attack. (Not a doctor, though.) I think it's possibly of particular importance to note that this started in a sexual scenario. That may have meaning. Has your girlfriend been sexually abused herself or witnessed, say, her mother abused? There is even always a small possibility that she has something happen to her, but blocked it out of her head (especially if she was young when it happened), but her subconscious is bringing it out now.

First thing to do, I think, would be to go to a doctor. If the doctor doesn't offer much help, try a therapist. You didn't mention any other health issues, so she may just be dealing with mental ones.

You seem like a really thoughtful, nice person, so I doubt I have to express this, but just in case: remember that when you bring this/the content of this thread up to her, to reiterate that you love her the way she is, twitching and all. You said these twitches are becoming annoying to her, so this topic may have recently become awkward, embarrassing or stressful for her to talk about. Reminding her of your love for her will take the edge off of talking about something that may have health or mental roots and need some work.

Good luck with this! Hope she's okay!
posted by metalheart at 11:44 AM on February 9, 2009

I do this too, mainly in my legs, but sometimes in my arms. It's a little disconcerting at first, but it goes just as randomly as it appears (never lasts more than five or so minutes), and if I move a little or shift in position it sometimes subsides faster. I don't really have any advice for you (other than if you feel it's necessary, a doctor's visit is never a bad thing), but more or less want to offer a "me too".
posted by sephira at 2:10 PM on February 9, 2009

This happened to me a few years ago when I was under a great deal of stress. Same exact thigh shaking weirdness. It freaked me out because it kept on happening, so I went to see a doctor. After a billion questions, a few "possibilities" (focal seizures was what she was guessing) and an EEG it turned out to be just stress. It still happens sometimes when I'm really anxious. Just my 2 cents.
posted by PossumCupCake at 6:13 PM on February 9, 2009

Re anxiety attacks: Sometimes it doesn't have to be anything bad at all. I get panicky and anxious before a show starts. It's the rush of adrenaline - if I have nothing to release the energy to, I get twitchy and anxious. Which sucks, in a way, because even fun stuff feels bad, but at least it's not due to trauma or anything like that.
posted by divabat at 12:32 PM on February 10, 2009

I have anxiety attacks. I also have these kind of spasms. They are very different. Like your girlfriend, I have them most often when my husband and I are "in intimate situations where we are touching, such as laying on the bed together," and they're frustrating for me just because I like to be in control of my body. For me it's like an orgasm without the orgasm, if that makes any sense. If they're painful or she feels anxious afterwards, I'd recommend a doctor.

I take anti-seizure medication for a completely unrelated reason, and it does not make a difference.
posted by desjardins at 1:00 PM on February 10, 2009

I didn't mean to mark this as resolved, as it essentially wasn't.

Nevertheless, thank you everyone for your input, especially those that reported experiencing something similar. My girlfriend doesn't see the need to get this checked out by a doctor, and I suppose I'll just enjoy it while I can.

Perhaps at some point we'll figure out the biological basis.
posted by Defenestrator at 2:35 AM on March 16, 2009

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