The Effects of Tetany

Written by erin watson-price
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The Effects of Tetany
Relieve some of the pain of tetany by wrapping the affected area. (Zedcor Wholly Owned/ Images)

Hypocalcaemia is a condition caused by the depletion or inability to absorb calcium. The movement of calcium between muscle cells controls the muscles ability to contract. When the body has low levels of available calcium, the result is tetany, the uncontrollable twitching of the nerves and muscles of the body. Mild symptoms only effect one or a few parts of the body and resemble muscle aches associated with over exertion or tingling in the hands and feet. Moderate to severe symptoms cause violent spasms or distortion of the hands, arms, feet, legs, neck and face. Although there are other causes of tetany, hypocalcaemia is the most common.


You may feel an uncontrollable urge to bend your hands backwards or forwards to the limits of the wrist joints. The fingers of your hands remain partially curled or make a complete fist without conscious direction. In severe cases, the fingernails dig into the palms of the hands, causing painful indentations and even bleeding. Extended periods of tetany in the hands result in forearm soreness. Until the medical treatments prescribed by your physician alleviate the symptoms, wrapping the hands and fingers or wearing braces helps support your fingers and wrists, preventing hyperextension.


Walking becomes painful either due to extreme nerve sensitivity in the soles of the feet and/or impaired movement. Like the fingers of the hands, the toes of the feet involuntarily curl toward the soles and may even pull your entire foot into a pointed position. Alternatively, your toes may pull backward toward the shin causing you foot to arch or pull into a flat walking position. If your toes pull backward, walking on your tiptoes in flexible shoes or wearing high-heeled shoes may allow you some mobility. After a period of severe tetany of the feet, your calf muscles will be sore. Wrapping your feet or wearing braces help support your feet and prevent hyperextension during extreme periods of tetany.

Arms and Legs

Tetany that affects the arms and legs may cause sudden muscle jerks or uncontrollable urges to twist your limbs into unnatural positions. The act of twisting may be unconscious or conscious. After sitting or lying for an extended period, you may suddenly find you have twisted one or more of your extremities without realising it. Often, mild relief from the cramping sensation comes from twisting your arms behind your back or pinning them at your sides. Bind your legs between chair legs or underneath the body.

Face and Neck

Mild symptoms include a tingling sensation of the lips, tongue or cheeks. You may experience ticks of the eyelids or cheeks. Prolonged, severe muscle spasms of the jaw result in grinding or cracking of the teeth. Purchase a mouth guard to prevent damage to your teeth, particularly at night when you have no conscious control. If severe enough, neck spasms may cause symptoms similar to whiplash, but they should decrease with little lasting effect. Contact your physician if pain in your neck does not lessen within a week after the tetany episode ends.

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