What is Muscle Weakness?
The human being has over 600 muscles which works together with the joints and allow you to move and exert force. If this force decreases, then there can be muscle weakness. For example, after a hard week of work or after a physical overload, you have the feeling of being loose and weak. Muscle weaknesses can also be an indication of a nervous or internal disease and can be symptom of paralysis.
Muscle weakness suddenly may appear due to an accident, stroke or infection. However, there are also diseases that can result from muscle weaknesses that progress slowly to paralysis, such as polyneuropathies and muscular dystrophies. In the case of muscle atrophy, there is a loss of muscle mass and progressive muscle weakness.
What Causes Muscle Weakness?
Muscle weakness can be caused by a number of causes. These causes are mostly poor nutrition, infections, nerve and muscle inflammation, stroke, congenital muscular diseases (muscular dystrophies) and physical illnesses. In addition, the intensity also ranges from slight weakness to paralysis.
Here are some examples of the multiple causes of muscle weakness:
- Muscle inflammation (myositis)
- Muscle injuries (from stiffness to tearing of muscle fibers)
- Poor diet (lack of vitamins and minerals such as magnesium)
- Muscle or nervous damage from toxic substances
- General infections (eg, influenza)
- Metabolic diseases (eg, hypothyroidism)
- Circulatory disorders and thrombosis
- Prolonged movement shortage (resting position over a long period of time or by wearing a therapeutic cast)
- Muscular dystrophies
- Spinal muscular atrophy (loss of muscle mass)
- Polyneuropathies (eg, in the case of diabetes mellitus)
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Childhood paralysis (poliomyelitis)
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Parkinson’s disease
- Herniated disc
- Stroke (stroke)
- Inflammation of the meninges (meningitis) and inflammation of the encephalitis (encephalitis)
- Brain and Marrow Tumors
- Psychic Causes
Muscle Weakness Diagnosis
If muscle weakness appears or increases, it is especially important to get a quick medical diagnosis. The diagnosis of muscle weakness can help to determine, if the cause of this symptom is a disease that requires treatment.
The first step is to perform a complete anamnesis (history of patient) with questions. After the anamnesis, complementary tests are performed to diagnose the degree and the specific cause of muscle weakness. These complementary tests include a physical examination, a blood test and a thorough examination of the nerves. These tests helps to control mobility, muscle strength, reflexes and reaction capacity. The doctor can see the difference in muscular strength in each half of the body with very simple tests, such as a handshake on both sides.
Depending on the outcome of the tests, additional diagnostic tests can be performed, such as:
- Electromyography (EMG)
- Muscle biopsy (sampling of muscle tissue)
- Computed Tomography (CT)
- Magnetic resonance tomography (MRT)
- Electroneurography (ENG)
- Electroencephalography (EEG)
- Lumbar puncture (analysis of cerebrospinal fluid)
- Genetic tests and medical examinations are performed by specialists (ophthalmologist, otolaryngologist)
The doctor decides if it is necessary to perform one of these tests.
Muscle Weakness Treatment
Treatment of muscle weakness addresses the underlying causes. Muscle weaknesses can develop very differently. For example, in the case of mild muscle weaknesses due to anemia. This can be treated by balanced diet and with getting vitamins and minerals. In the case of infections with muscle weakness, muscle strength also recovers most of the time once the disease has subsided.
Many nervous diseases that cause muscle weakness, it is often only possible to treat the symptoms of these diseases not the cause of diseases. In particular, certain muscle and nerve diseases such as polyneuropathic forms, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Duchenne muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis (MS) are progressing along their natural course and it is not possible to treat their cause.
In these cases support measures such as physiotherapy (therapeutic gymnastics) and body treatments (hot-cold baths, gymnastic baths, massages, treatments with current and application of heat) are helpful. These measures strengthen the muscles and improve blood flow and mobility.