What's Your Body Telling You?

When your car pings or whirs, you look under the hood. Same thing applies to your body: Those funny little sounds and moves might seem random, but they're your body's way of saying, "Hey, a little help here, please!"

Cramping Muscles

The Message: More water, please.

What you've got is a charley horse, and dehydration is a big cause, says Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, M.D., an internist and instructor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center. Not getting enough electrolytes (magnesium, potassium, calcium) can also cause problems because your muscles need these to contract the right way. Sweating causes you to lose electrolytes, so an imbalance and dehydration often go hand-in-hand. Prevent the pain by drinking plenty of water—especially after you exercise. One sidenote: Some asthma and blood pressure meds can cause potassium levels to dip.

Twitching Eyelid

The Message: Give me a break!

Everyone might think you're winking at them, but you're not. A twitchy eye is usually caused by stress or fatigue, explains Shilpi Agarwal, M.D., a family physician in Washington, D.C. Get a little R & R, and chances are the twitch will disappear. It might also be a sign of eye strain, which can happen when you spend a lot of time in front of a screen (computer, laptop—even smartphone), so be sure to look away every 20 minutes. A warm compress can also help; the heat relaxes muscles around the eye. One thing not to do: Fuel up with an extra cup of coffee. Caffeine can stimulate nerve impulses in your eye that lead to spasms.

Snoring Like a Buzz Saw

The Message: I'm not getting enough air!

Snoring tells you something very specific about what's going on with your anatomy. You snore when the walls of your throat narrow and vibrate as you breathe, usually because you're congested or something's off physically. People who have large tonsils or deviated septums are more likely to snore, and carrying extra weight can also be a cause, Agarwal says. Ever notice that your partner only snores after a night out with cocktails? Alcohol close to bedtime makes snoring more likely because it relaxes the muscles in your throat.

Occasional snoring is nothing to worry about, but if earplugs are a family accessory, check with your doctor. The National Sleep Foundation estimates that about 50 percent of loud snorers have obstructive sleep apnea, a serious condition in which the walls of the throat collapse so much that you stop breathing for several seconds at a time. If you share a bed, ask your partner if they've noticed you gasping or pausing between breaths. Other signs of apnea: Frequent morning headaches, and being very tired despite sleeping long enough. You might need a sleep study to figure out what's going on.


The Message: Slow. It. Down.

Here's something unexpected: Hiccups actually start in your neck! When the phrenic nerve gets irritated, it triggers your diaphragm to contract and push air out very quickly. Spicy foods, dry bread, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all irritate this nerve, but the most common cause is eating or drinking too quickly, Agarwal says. Overeating exacerbates things because a full stomach can push up on your diaphragm. Hiccups usually resolve on their own, and holding your breath or eating sugar hasn't been proven to help them go away faster. One caveat: If you find yourself hiccupping for hours or days (it's rare, but it happens!), see a doctor. You might need anti-anxiety medication or a muscle relaxer.

Your Knee Creaks

The Message: My cushion is wearing down.

There are many reasons your joints might creak, and it doesn't always mean arthritis, OkekeIgbokwe says. Your ligaments and tendons might simply be rubbing against each other or your bones as you move. The question: Do you have other symptoms? Pain, redness, and swelling around a joint are all signs of arthritis. Another possibility: "runner's knee," or patellofemoral syndrome, which causes aches around the kneecap—and you don't have to be a runner to get it. Weak thigh muscles, or flat feet—which means your arches don't absorb the impact when you walk or run, so your joints do—can also cause your knee to creak. Treatment is usually strengthening exercises, anti-inflammatories, and yes, supportive shoes. "The take-home message is if you're hearing the creaking and feeling any other concerning symptoms, talk to your doctor," Okeke-Igbokwe says. If your only complaint is noise, don't sweat it. 

Oh, Yawn

The Message: I'm fading.

OK, we all know the message a yawn sends, but you might be surprised to learn that there's a physiological reason behind it. As you start to fade, your brain temperature rises. Inhaling deeply and opening your jaw wide (in other words, yawning) is your body's way of taking in cooler air and increasing blood flow to the brain so you become more alert, says Andrew Gallup, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Oneonta. And you're not imagining it, they really are contagious. 


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