Tics: What Are They?

A tic is an involuntary, repeated spasm or contraction of the facial muscles. It can also refer to movements of the arms, legs, neck, trunk, and other body parts. Tics vary in intensity from person to person, and can range from minor to more severe. They often come and go, and can vary in type, frequency, and severity.

Types of Tics

Tics can include a range of movements and sounds. These can include eye blinking, head jerking, or shoulder shrugging, as well as jaw movements, tongue clicks, throat clearings, and facial grimaces. Tics can also be verbal, including verbal outbursts or repetitive phrases.

Causes of Tics

The exact cause of tics is not known, but genetics and environmental factors are thought to play a role. Stressful life events, such as trauma or the start of a new school year, can also trigger tics. Others may find that they spontaneously appear and then disappear without warning.

Diagnosing and Treating Tics

Tics can often be managed without the need for medical intervention. However, if the tics are become problematic or are interfering with daily activities, it is recommended to seek an evaluation from a qualified professional. Treatment may include medications, non-medicinal therapies such as therapy or mindfulness, or adjunctive treatments such as acupuncture.

Tips to Manage Tics

  • Identify triggers: Keeping a log of when your tics appear and what may have preceded them can help you to identify triggers and manage your tics more effectively.
  • Focus on relaxation: Relaxation techniques such as mindfulness and progressive muscle relaxation can help to reduce tics in some cases.
  • Get enough sleep: Lack of sleep can often exacerbate tic symptoms. Make sure to get seven to eight hours of sleep every night.
  • Be aware of your posture: Poor posture can cause tension on the muscles, which can lead to an increase in tics.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise can help to release tension and relax your muscles.