By Medicover Hospitals / 17 Feb 2021
Muscle weakness occurs when your full effort does not produce normal muscle contraction or movement. It is also known as reduced muscle strength, muscular weakness, weak muscles. Whether you're sick or just need rest, short-term muscle weakness happens to almost everyone at some point.
- What Is Muscle Weakness?
- When to visit a Doctor?
What Is Muscle Weakness?
Muscle weakness is a lack of muscle strength. Its causes are many and can be divided into conditions that have real or perceived muscle weakness. Serious muscle weakness, like muscular dystrophy and inflammatory myopathy, is a primary sign of a variety of skeletal muscle diseases. It occurs in disorders of the neuromuscular junction, such as myasthenia gravis. Muscle weakness can also be due to low levels of potassium and other electrolytes within muscle cells.
It can be a symptom of an underlying health condition if you experience chronic muscle weakness or muscle weakness without a clear cause or a normal explanation.
When your brain signals a muscle through your spinal cord and nerves, voluntary muscle contractions are usually generated.
If your brain, nervous system, muscles, or the connections between them are injured or affected by the disease, your muscles may not contract normally. This can lead to muscle weakness.
Many health conditions can cause muscle weakness, such as:
This occurs when a person's adrenal glands do not make enough of the hormones cortisol and aldosterone. Besides muscle weakness, other common signs of Addison's disease include:
- chronic fatigue
- weight loss
- loss of appetite
- stomach pain
Anemia occurs when a person's hemoglobin levels are low, often because of an iron deficiency. Other signs of anemia include:
- shortness of breath
- cold hands and feet
- an irregular heartbeat
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome:
Another name is myalgic encephalomyelitis. People with chronic fatigue syndrome experience severe tiredness and trouble sleeping. Other signs include muscle weakness, pain, dizziness, and trouble concentrating.
Diabetes occurs when the body does not make enough insulin or does not use insulin properly. It can cause nerve damage that can cause muscle weakness. Diabetes can also cause a variety of other signs related to muscle weakness, including:
- reduced mobility
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disease that, besides other symptoms, causes muscle pain and fatigue, such as:
- constant fatigue
- impaired memory
- mood swings
Kidney function problems may cause the build-up of metabolic waste products, such as creatinine, in the muscles. This can lead to muscle spasms and weakness.
Sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy and insomnia, can lead to muscle weakness and fatigue during the day. A person who wants to remain in bed can also encounter muscle fatigue because of a medical condition. This is because the muscles are not used as regularly as usual. A person can also be at risk of having trouble sleeping.
Some infectious diseases can cause muscle weakness. They include:
- Influenza (flu) virus can cause temporary muscle weakness, and fever, sore throat, cough, and fatigue.
- This inflammatory disease follows the bite of an infected tick. Signs can be acute or chronic and include fever, rash, stiff neck, numbness, muscle weakness, and fatigue.
- The Epstein-Barr virus can cause muscle weakness and fatigue, rash, headaches, and loss of appetite that are unexplained.
- This sexually transmitted infection can cause muscle weakness, and headaches, fatigue, sore throat, and weight loss.
- Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic infection that causes headaches, fatigue, low-grade fever, and seizures.
- A severe infection that causes inflammation in the brain and spinal cord is meningitis. Besides muscle weakness, symptoms can include fever, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, and increased sensitivity to light.
- HIV can cause progressive muscle weakness in some people, especially those who do not receive treatment.
- Polio myositis can cause muscle weakness and tenderness. A person who has had polio, which results in muscle weakness may also encounter post-polio syndrome.
- Rabies results from contact with the saliva of an infected animal. Tiredness, headaches, anxiety, confusion, and seizures, muscle weakness, and muscle spasms can be symptoms.
Your doctor will need to examine you to see which muscles are affected and if you have actual or perceived muscle weakness. They will check if your muscles are tender to the touch (suggesting they are inflamed) or unusually 'fatigued'. They may want to see you walk.
Next, they will need to test their nerves to see if the muscles receive the correct signals to act. Your doctor may need to assess your central nervous system, including your balance and coordination. They may need to do blood tests to look for abnormalities in hormones and blood cells.
If none of these tests reveal the cause, your doctor may order the following:
On physical examination, the doctor should objectively note your loss of strength, perform a neurological study, and look for patterns of weakness and other abnormalities.
- Nerve studies to make sure the nerves are working properly.
- A muscle biopsy to see if the muscles themselves show signs of inflammation or damage. A biopsy is a procedure in which a small sample is taken to look at under a microscope.
- Body scans such as CT or MRI to look for conditions in other parts of the body that may affect muscle function and power.
- The pattern and severity of weakness, associated signs, medication use, and family history help your doctor determine the cause of your weakness.
Once they have determined the cause of your muscle weakness, your healthcare provider will recommend the appropriate treatment. Your treatment plan will depend on the underlying cause of your muscle weakness, and the severity of your symptoms.
Here are some treatment options for conditions that cause muscle weakness:
Physical therapists can suggest exercises to improve your quality of life if you have conditions like Multiple sclerosis (MS) or Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
For example, a physical therapist might suggest progressive resistance exercises to help someone with MS strengthen muscles that have weakened from lack of use.
For someone with ALS, a physical therapist might recommend stretching and range-of-motion exercises to prevent muscle stiffness.
Occupational therapists may suggest exercises to strengthen the upper body. They can also recommend assistive devices and tools to help with daily activities.
Occupational therapy can be especially helpful during the stroke rehabilitation process. Therapists may recommend exercises to address weakness on one side of your body and help with motor skills.
Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help manage pain associated with conditions such as:
Thyroid hormone replacement is used to treat hypothyroidism. Standard treatment involves taking levothyroxine (Levoxyl, Synthroid), which is a synthetic thyroid hormone.
- peripheral neuropathy
Changing your diet can help remedy electrolyte imbalances. Your healthcare provider may also suggest that you take supplements, such as calcium, magnesium oxide, or potassium oxide, depending on your needs.
Apply cool, damp cloths to the skin. Placing cold compresses on the groin, neck, and armpits helps lower body temperature. Provide cold liquids as often as the person can tolerate.
Surgery can be used to treat certain conditions, such as a herniated disc or hyperthyroidism.
When to visit a Doctor?
In some cases, muscle weakness can be a sign of something very serious, like a stroke. If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your local emergency services immediately:
- sudden onset of muscle weakness
- sudden difficulty moving limbs, walking, standing, or sitting upright
- sudden numbness or loss of sensation
- sudden difficulty smiling or forming facial expressions
- sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or trouble understanding things
- the weakness of the chest muscles causing difficulty in breathing
- loss of consciousness
Following a healthy and balanced diet is very important to speed up the recovery of weakened muscles. Here is a list of foods that can improve muscle weakness.
- Get gentle exercise regularly.
- Go for a walk every day
- Get a good night's sleep
- Keep your stress levels under control
- Practice meditation and yoga
- Get a body massage now and then to help your muscles heal faster
- Eat a balanced and nutritious diet
Frequently Asked Questions:
Get enough vitamin D, but not too much. Vitamin D helps strengthen bones and can help prevent some cancers. Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can include muscle weakness, pain, fatigue, and depression.
The most common physical symptoms of anxiety include fatigue, increased heart rate, palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, muscle aches, muscle weakness, headaches, digestion, malaise, and tingling sensations.
Symptoms in the legs can occur along with weakness in the legs, muscle spasms. Numbness. Paralysis. Tingling (tingling) sensation.
ATS magazines - https://www.atsjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1164/ajrccm.153.3.8630582
Science Direct - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0140673676904281
Science Direct - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0889857X05700685