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What Are Common Causes of Causes of Muscle Weakness?

A neurological condition such as cerebral palsy can cause muscle weakness.
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  • Written By: Alex Paul
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 17 March 2014
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True muscle weakness occurs when there is a problem with the muscle itself or the nerve connecting to it. There are also conditions that can cause a muscle to feel weak, such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. A sudden tear can cause immediate muscle weakness while muscle wastage can occur over time due to such conditions as a stroke or autoimmune disease. Other potential causes of muscle weakness include muscular diseases, dehydration and lack of use.

One of the most common causes of muscle weakness is a trauma injury. If a muscle tears, it will not be able to function correctly and may feel weak. In some cases, in order to protect a damaged muscle the body will inhibit its movement, which can also be perceived as a weakness. This is one of the many causes of muscle weakness that will usually go away over time as long as the correct physical therapy and rehabilitation exercises are performed.

Neurological diseases can be common causes of muscle weakness as well. Muscles get signals from the brain via nerves, and if the neurological system isn’t functioning correctly this can impair a muscle’s ability to contract. Examples of neurological conditions that can cause muscle weakness include cerebral palsy, strokes and multiple sclerosis.

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In some cases a disease that affects the muscle directly may cause weakness. For example, muscular dystrophy is a genetic condition that causes the muscles to deteriorate over time and leads to weakness. Myotonic dystrophy, a condition involving muscle spasms, is another of the many potential causes of muscle weakness and can cause the muscles become unable to relax effectively.

There are many less severe causes of muscle weakness which can be treated relatively easily. For example, if a muscle isn’t used for a long period of time, it may begin to decrease in strength. This is commonly seen among people who work all day at a computer. Also, if a person becomes bed bound for an extended period of time, this may cause muscle wastage and require rehabilitation. In both cases, exercise or physical therapy are usually sufficient treatments.

Other causes of muscle weakness include dehydration, infections and lack of nutrition. In order to diagnose the causes of muscle weakness a doctor will usually look at other symptoms that may be present in order to distinguish between the different conditions. Diagnosis often also includes a thorough examination of medical history, a neurological exam and in some cases blood tests. The length of time that the weakness has been present and whether it affects all muscles is also important.

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