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Medical Cure for muscle tics - how does it work?

  1. Jul 23, 2010 #1

    lisab

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    "Cure" for muscle tics - how does it work?

    Many years ago, someone told me of a cure for muscle cramps that I assumed was an old wive's tale: you press or pinch your upper lip, between your mouth and nose, and maybe use a gentle rubbing.

    I rarely get muscle cramps but I do occasionally get muscle tics (twitches), so I tried this to see if it would help.

    Well lo and behold, this really works for me. Sometimes it takes 30 seconds or so of pressing, and sometimes it only works when the pressure is applied.

    This is the same spot that, when pressed, stops sneezes in their tracks. Is that the same mechanism? What exactly is the mechanism?
     
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  3. Jul 24, 2010 #2
    Re: "Cure" for muscle tics - how does it work?

    There is no research that I can find which confirms this, but it seems to be a very widespread belief. I can think of four major reasons why it could work (sometimes), but I remain unconvinced that it does.

    First, most muscle cramping is transient, so any activity that takes your time makes it more likely that the cramping will stop. If you are pinching your lip at the time, you may conclude that is the cure.

    Second, the cramping can be caused by an imbalance of electrolytes (usually Na and K) and dehydration, and this also tends to be intermittent. This is essentially #1, but instead of time, maybe you have something to eat or drink and the lip-pinching is inconsequential.

    Third, the cramping began normally, but is now self-reinforcing due to discomfort and your concentration on something else, and something painful such as the philtrum (where you punch on the lip) and this allows the cramping to ease. Certainly this could help with sneezing, just as some people find they can focus and ease hiccups.

    Finally, it is possible that pinching what is known to be a VERY sensitive portion of your anatomy, the philtrum, releases endorphins, adrenaline and more as a response to the acute pain in another region of the body, which could have a relaxing effect. You can use a thread across the top of the philtrum to hold someone on the ground; that is how sensitive that region is.

    There is no direct mechanism I can think of such as fainting or arrhythmia from the activity or trauma of/to the Vagus nerve (vasovagal syncope).
     
  4. Jul 25, 2010 #3

    lisab

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    Re: "Cure" for muscle tics - how does it work?

    Thanks, nismaratwork, those are good points. The 'coincidence' angle is quite possible, and perhaps after the pinch works a few times it gets reinforced, causing an expectation that it will work.

    Several years ago I tried a little test, to see if it's an expectation thing. Instead of pinching my lip, I concentrated and imagined I was pinching my lip. I've done this many times - it's never worked, haha. Perhaps that only further adds to my expectation that the pinch will work!

    But are you sure there's no evidence about pinching the philtrum to stop a sneeze? I googled it but only found wiki-answers type references :rolleyes: and "adjust your chakra" type sites :eek:.
     
  5. Jul 25, 2010 #4
    Re: "Cure" for muscle tics - how does it work?

    Well, I couldn't find any in JAMA or The Lancet, and then I found the same wiki entries you've mentioned. Granted that a lack of evidence doesn't make it wrong, but it seems to be either untested, or invalid. Then again, it could be confirmed in some other journal and I just didn't find it.
     
  6. Jul 27, 2010 #5

    rhody

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    Re: "Cure" for muscle tics - how does it work?

    lisab,

    Funny I read this post a few days ago, put it in the back of my mind, partially because at times I find myself sneezing 6 or more times fairly close together. Tonight at a restaurant I started, after the second sneeze I pushed and rubbed against my upper lip, and it stopped. I held it for about 15 seconds, let go, and sneezed one more time. Then I held it for about a minute and no more sneezing, very cool, but people tend to look at you funny, small price to pay though. So, from experiment I would say for me at least that it appears to work. Will have to repeat with multiples occurrences just to be sure.

    Thanks for the tip...

    Rhody...:wink:
     
  7. Jul 27, 2010 #6

    lisab

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    Re: "Cure" for muscle tics - how does it work?

    Glad to hear you had the same experiences with this that I've had - be sure to report back when you test its repeatability.
     
  8. Jul 29, 2010 #7

    rhody

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    Re: "Cure" for muscle tics - how does it work?

    lisab,

    Well it happened again. After my second sneeze, I held my upper lip, squeezed fairly gently and shook it slightly (sort of like the dentist does when he is about to inject your gum with novacane to dull or confuse the brain in sensing the needle pain). I did this for about 2 minutes, and blamo, no more sneezing !!! So it works. Now it will be interesting to see if it continues to work, or as you use this everytime it happens, if the effect is somewhat diminished, sort of like the effects of repeated use of antibiotics, the effect eventually does not suppress what is was designed to do.

    Rhody... :biggrin:
     
  9. Jul 29, 2010 #8
    Re: "Cure" for muscle tics - how does it work?

    I find this works for sneezing as well, but I can think of several reasons:

    1.) Pressure in that region may draw the nostrils downwards and create more space between inflamed tissues.

    2.) There is a "distraction" effect, after all sneezing usually continues beyond the point that the detritus is removed from the nostrils. I would hazard a guess that this is less effective for a cold or other URI.

    3.) This is a sensitive area, so maybe the aforementioned reaction to mild discomfort in a sensitive region causes a reaction which is desirable for sneezing. I'm not sure that this is more effective than meditative concentration however. I would love to see this studied.

    Ah, let me add a thanks to Lisab for the tip, however it works for sneezing it DOES seem to work. It's a nifty trick, thanks. :smile:
     
  10. Jul 29, 2010 #9
    Re: "Cure" for muscle tics - how does it work?

    A sneeze is a reflex and if you need to sneeze then from a health point of view it is more desirable to let it go_Of course there are situations where it is better to suppress a sneeze.
     
  11. Jul 29, 2010 #10

    rhody

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    Re: "Cure" for muscle tics - how does it work?

    Dadface,

    I agree once or twice is fine, but when you sneeze almost a dozen times I don't think so. I had a roomate long ago in college who if he were first to the bathroom would sneeze at least that many times in a row, every day. Ewww. Having this little trick in your backpocket would have saved tons of lysol and window cleaner.

    nismaratwork,

    I agree, I think something happens that supresses the histamine release. When I don't squeeze the lip I can still feel the tickle/smell it (histamine). Affecting the sensory maps in the brain associated with the upper lip probably takes sensory input away from the areas that make you sneeze, in essense dulling the sensation, and preventing further sneezing.

    Rhody... :redface:

    P.S. To be specific, I grabbed my upper lip with thumb (inside lip) forefinger (outside lip) and squeezed and vibrated the lip gently for about 2 minutes. It looks really stupid in public, but I would do it anyway, as opposed to sneezing a dozen or more times, grossing everyone out in the immediate vicinity

    BTW, what is the most number of times you have sneezed at one time ? I would say about 12 for myself. After that many times my ribs start to hurt, so I would have used this technique in a heartbeat had I known about it back then.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2010
  12. Jul 29, 2010 #11
    Re: "Cure" for muscle tics - how does it work?

    During an allergy attack as a kid, A dozen sounds about right. The intercostal muscles can strain from this.

    Dadface: Rhody is correct, and he mentions histamines wisely. It's good to let the tears in your eyes flush an irritant, but the feeling tends to last far longer than the irritant is present. In the case of sneezing, the inflammatory cycle can go a bit haywire, and long after irritants have been ejected, you are left sneezing with no benefit and only the possibility of straining a muscle.

    I would add rhody, that in the short time these past few days, I've found that laying the index finger across the top of the philtrum beneath the nares and applying pressure against the gums and teeth works as well and your method. Lets conduct a little informal test for the following parameters:

    Does a certain level of discomfort need to be achieved to end the sneezing?
    Can you do this without thinking about it, and achieve the same benefit?
    Do we feel some pressure change in the base of the sinus, much as you might when applying pressure upwards beneath the cheekbones?

    In short, could we pinch our earlobes or the lower lip and the discomfort would achieve the same end, or is it specific to this structure or nerve cluster?
     
  13. Aug 1, 2010 #12

    rhody

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    Re: "Cure" for muscle tics - how does it work?

    nismaratwork,

    The answer to your first question about discomfort is definitely, no, it happened again yesterday and just a light pressure applied to the upper lip (with shaking) does it. Second, this time I only did it till I felt the histamine release in my sinuses stop. No change in pressure in the base of sinus. I would say about 30 - 40 seconds tops instead of two minutes.

    I will try lower lip, ear lobes as suggested, I also am going to try the dentist trick, squeezing and shaking a gum area before he puts the needle with nova-cane in. I am starting to think a sneezing fit comes from a build up, then sudden release of histamine due to reaction from airborne gunk (nice scientific word, hehe).

    The geek in me says that over time I would not be surprised that the upper lip squeeze will not work as well due to desensitization from the same stimulus, I am guessing but I would say in four to six weeks. Only time will tell for sure. If that happens then I will need a new technique.

    edit:

    After I posted this, it seems I got into the sneezing cycle once again, and I tried the lower lip, same technique, and yes it seems to work the same way, next is ear lobes, then pressure on gums.

    Rhody... :wink:
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2010
  14. Aug 2, 2010 #13
    Re: "Cure" for muscle tics - how does it work?

    Huh, this is such an odd effect. You are a gentleman and a scholar for being so game to try other regions however, and may I thank you! I'll do the same, and I look forward to the results of this little test run. Now, where is my freshly ground black pepper... :wink:
     
  15. Aug 2, 2010 #14

    rhody

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    Re: "Cure" for muscle tics - how does it work?

    Yeah, now I am wondering if I did something rash, like repeatedly poke myself in the eye, if it would stop too. lol. Basically though, I think the brain maps that process sensation of histamine are being offset, or preempted if you will by the lip sensation. Maybe the processing (motor part) of the reaction (the sneeze) to the sensation is not being activated. Only a guess however.

    Rhody.... ahhhh ahhhh ahhhh ahhhh... whew... that was close...
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2010
  16. Aug 3, 2010 #15

    rhody

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    Re: "Cure" for muscle tics - how does it work?

    I can report that squeezing the earlobes does not work, one rule of thumb when doing any test is that when applying pressure if it works you can immediately feel the histamine rush begin to subside. I tried the side of the lips, and that works, I am guessing but anywhere in the mouth sensory map area works, next is the gums, dentist style when applying novacane, stay tuned this is about as exciting as watching grass grow, lol.

    Rhody... :blushing:

    P.S. I never realized it before, but just about everyday I have a small sneeze fit, hmmm, will have to work on that irritation next, any ideas how to stop before it starts ? Grab the lip quickly perhaps ?
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2010
  17. Aug 3, 2010 #16
    Re: "Cure" for muscle tics - how does it work?

    Interesting... I've found that it has to be around the mouth or nose as well. For the sneezing fits, I would tend to try and find a source of allergens or some regular event which triggers them before moving to some counter-stimulus.
     
  18. Aug 3, 2010 #17

    lisab

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    Re: "Cure" for muscle tics - how does it work?

    So if the maneuver stops sneezes bye suppressing histamines somehow, why does it also stop muscle tics? Is there a histamine/allergy connection with twitches?
     
  19. Aug 3, 2010 #18

    rhody

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    Re: "Cure" for muscle tics - how does it work?

    lisa,

    Do you mean like when you are low on say electrolites or a vitamin, and say your eye starts twitching ? My eye, left one used to twitch in response to unacknowledged stress, I know you are thinking, how do you know if you have it if you don't acknowledge it. Basically my eye would twitch and after getting mildly annoyed about it, I would remember some situation that bothered me, and I would then blame it on stress after the fact. It was either that or if I did stenuous activity without enough fluids or food, then the twitching could happen in my legs, neck, arms. In those two cases I don't think histamines were involved, just nerves and lack of fluids or nutrients. I will try to keep this in mind if I get muscle tics, and try same technique for them. Only time will tell.

    Rhody...
     
  20. Aug 3, 2010 #19

    lisab

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    Re: "Cure" for muscle tics - how does it work?

    Yes, that's exactly what I mean - and yes, they're so annoying. I get them when I'm tired and stressed too, despite being well hydrated. I think I may simply be prone to them. Working out regularly helps to prevent them. But the pinch often does the trick, stopping them probably over 75% of the time. It'll be interesting to hear if it works for you, too.
     
  21. Aug 3, 2010 #20

    rhody

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    Re: "Cure" for muscle tics - how does it work?

    lisa,

    You mean stop them completely ? If you pinch for a short time, does it stop only for a short period, then continue, or for good ? How long do you have to the pinch to stop them for good ?

    Rhody...
     
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