If you experience muscle weakness, you may chalk it up to being out of shape or just getting older. Sometimes reduced muscle strength is a sign that you overexerted y
ourself in a workout or other physical activity you’re not used to. However, persistent muscle weakness is not normal and could indicate an presence of a serious underlying health issue.
What Is Muscle Weakness?
When you decide to make a voluntary muscle contraction like picking up a cup of coffee, it starts with the brain sending a signal down your spinal cord into nerves and muscles. However, if any of those intricate connections in the chain (brain, nervous system, muscles) are damaged by injury or disease, your muscles won’t work properly and you’ll suffer from muscle weakness.
What Causes Muscle Weakness?
Many different health problems cause weakened muscles. See your neurologist to get a diagnosis if you continue to suffer with weakened muscles that have no known cause. Your neurologist will conduct a thorough examination in addition to taking your family history into account. These conditions include:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Muscular dystrophy
- Myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune disease
- Peripheral neuropathy, a kind of nerve damage
- Neuralgia, a burning pain in the nerves
- Polymyositis, a chronic inflammation of muscles
- Grave’s disease, an autoimmune disease of the thyroid
- ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, a degenerative disease of the brain and spinal cord
- West Nile virus, a disease carried by mosquitoes
- Rheumatic fever, a complication of strep throat
- Botulism, a rare food-borne toxin
- And more
What Are the Symptoms of Muscle Weakness?
Muscle weakness falls into the following categories:
Primary Muscle Weakness – This manifests as the inability to make muscle movements you want, especially on the first try. The muscle is damaged or otherwise abnormal and can’t exert the force needed to perform tasks.
Muscle Tiredness – Also called asthenia, this condition occurs when you feel exhausted or weary after simple muscle use. This weakness can sometimes be attributed to chronic fatigue syndrome, sleeping disorders, or chronic diseases of the kidney, heart, and lungs.
Muscle Fatigue – This occurs when your muscles perform normally at the beginning of a task, but then get tired quickly and take a significant amount of time to recover.
The following symptoms are medical emergencies. Seek treatment immediately.
Sudden onset of weakened muscles
Immediate loss of feeling in muscles
Inability to stand, walk, or sit upright
Confusion, inability to speak, or unable to understand words
Difficulty breathing brought on by chest muscle weakness
Loss of consciousness
What Are the Treatment Options for Muscle Weakness?
When you see your neurologist, you’ll get a full workup of your health history and current symptoms. Your doctor will check your reflexes, muscle tone, and muscle sensation. Additional tests to find a diagnosis can include:
- MRI or CT scans
- Nerve testing
- Electromyography to test nerve activity in muscle tissue
- Blood testing for evidence of infections or other problems
Depending on the underlying cause and severity of your muscle weakness, treatment could include physical therapy, medications, or surgery. Every patient is different and you will have a treatment plan tailor-made to your exact condition.
If you’re suffering from muscle weakness, make an appointment today with one of the board-certified neurologists at Complete Neurological Care. We offer 11 convenient locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, Long Island, and New Jersey to serve you.