It is rather apparent to feel fatigued after a tough day at the gym or a stressful day at work. On such days, your muscles may feel exhausted and in need of rest. But, what about a persistent feeling of weakness in the muscles without any due cause to it?

Ever wondered that unexplained muscle fatigue could be a sign of an underlying muscular, neurological or metabolic problem within the body?! No?

Well! It is!

Let us first understand what exactly muscle weakness is.

To start, let us first delve deeper into the mechanisms behind muscle movement.

The brain signals the muscles through the nerves to perform voluntary muscle contractions and movement. When the connection between the nerves and the muscles is affected, it can result in abnormal signals and finally muscle weakness.

When we are ill or stressed out, all of us experience short-term muscle weakness. But when this becomes a persistent occurrence without any apparent cause, it is a sign of muscle weakness. Thus, muscle weakness, also known as myasthenia in medical terms, is a condition marked by a decreased strength in one or more muscles. This condition is mostly indicative of one of the following conditions:

  • A muscular disorder such as muscular dystrophy or dermatomyositis (i.e. a disease characterised by muscle inflammation).
  • Neurological disorders such as Lou Gehrig’s disease, the autoimmune nerve disorder known as Guillain-Barre syndrome, autoimmune neuromuscular disorder (myasthenia gravis), pinched nerve Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (a genetic disease of the peripheral nerves), or even stroke.
  • Metabolic disorders such as hyperthyroidism or Addison’s disease.

Since muscle weakness can be associated with any of these severe conditions, it is imperative that one seeks immediate treatment to limit the complications and the risk of permanent damage such as paralysis, loss of mobility, permanent nerve damage or a spread of the infection to other parts.

The next obvious question is, of course, how do you know that you are suffering from muscle weakness?

Muscle weakness usually accompanies other symptoms that affect the muscles. Look out for signs such as:

  • Prickling sensation (known as pins-and-needles sensation)
  • Unexplained burning sensation in the body
  • Loss of muscle coordination marked by frequent episodes of falling
  • Twitching
  • Muscle spasms accompanied by pain
  • Sudden paralysis

We all are aware of the adage – “Prevention is better than cure.”

So, now that we know what to look out for, it is also essential that we understand the reasons why muscle weakness may afflict us. Identifying the cause is half the battle won!

Here are 10 of the most common causes of muscle weakness:

1. Lack of Use: The most common cause of muscle weakness happens to be lack of proper muscle fitness due to a sedentary lifestyle. If you do not use your muscles adequately, the muscle fibres are with time replaced with fat, leading to floppiness of the muscles and finally persistent muscle weakness.

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2. Infections: Infections and inflammation, unusually when severe, cause muscle fatigue that can last for a longer time and may even lead to permanent damage if left untreated.

3. Injuries: An injury or trauma due to an accident or sporting event may cause muscle weakness along with localised pain that may aggravate if left unattended.

4. Chronic Diseases: Several chronic conditions such as anaemia, cardiac disorders, diabetes, etc. can lead to muscle weakness due to the shortage of blood supply and essential nutrients to the muscles.

5. Nerve Disorders: Nerve disorders affect the nerves that relay signals to the muscles, leading to abnormal signalling and thus muscle weakness.

6. Spinal disorders: Conditions such as slip disc, irritated or compressed nerves and other diseases of the spinal cord affect the muscles leading to the disruption of the standard connection between the signal-carrying nerves and the muscles and cause muscle weakness.

7. Genetic Disorders: Genetic diseases such as muscular dystrophy that is inherited can also affect the muscles and lead to muscle weakness.

8. Sleep Disorders: Sleep is an essential repair mechanism in the body. Disturbed sleep patterns such as insomnia or less than normal sleep caused by anxiety or depression, also affect the muscles and lead to muscle weakness in the long run.

9. Pregnancy: Sometimes, conditions such as pregnancy lead to muscle floppiness and general weakness due to hormonal changes in the body or low levels of iron.

10. Ageing: Finally, age is another factor that tends to render our muscles weak and lacking in strength. As we age, our muscles become bulky and start losing their potency. However, the effects of ageing on the tissues can be countered to an extent with physical activity. Staying active can help retain muscle power.

Once the cause of your muscle weakness becomes apparent, it is imperative to follow the doctor’s recommended course of treatment to overcome the symptoms and lead a healthier life, free of muscle stress.

Medical Disclaimer: The information and reference materials contained here are intended solely for the general information of the reader. Patients and consumers should review the information carefully with their professional health care provider. The information is not intended to replace medical advice offered by physicians. You should consult your physician before beginning a new nutritional or fitness program.

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