What are Common Causes of Arm and Leg Weakness?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2019
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Arm and leg weakness can be caused by a variety of different conditions, some of them temporary and others chronic. Excessive exercise is one cause of temporary fatigue in the major muscle groups, although this is not considered true muscle weakness. Conditions which may cause clinical weakness include neurological disorders, muscular problems or injuries, toxic overload, and certain metabolic illnesses.

There are many common reasons for arm and leg weakness that are not causes for alarm and generally get better with treatment. Muscle injuries due to playing sports are one example, as well temporary toxic overload in the body. Dehydration can also cause weakness in severe cases and can be remedied by replenishing fluids. Toxins can be removed from the body by doing a detoxifying cleanse, such as a juice fasting diet, or by discontinuing any activities or medications which may be causing the overload in the first place.

Certain neurological disorders can also cause weakness in the arm and leg. Multiple sclerosis is one condition that is hallmarked by increased weakness, trouble with balance and coordination, and sometimes vision problems. More severe but much less likely conditions are Parkinson’s disease and Lou Gehrig's disease. These often strike the elderly more so than young adults and teens, and are generally considered rare. This is particularly true for Lou Gehrig's disease.


Sometimes illnesses such as cancer can also cause weakness, although other symptoms are generally noticed first. Another possible illness is diabetes, which can lead to all-over body fatigue and malaise when untreated. Other possible causes include an electrolyte imbalance, certain viruses like influenza, torn muscles or ligaments, and stroke.

If arm and leg weakness is severe and lasts longer than a couple of days with no known trauma to the area of weakness, a doctor should be consulted for an exam. Although weakness is very rarely a serious problem, there are conditions which should be ruled out. Weakness accompanied by other symptoms should always be examined promptly, especially if neurological symptoms are present. These can include muscle twitching, loss of balance, decreased coordination, personality changes, vision changes, dizziness, fatigue, memory loss, or vertigo.

Injury-related weakness is most often accompanied by pain and tenderness in the same area. Even after pain has subsided, weakness may continue until the muscle has been exercised sufficiently enough to rebuild tissue. This should be done under the supervision of a doctor or physical therapist.


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Post 7

What causes upper thigh ache and weakness with a balance problem? I only have it on my upper thighs. I do have sjogrens and do not take any meds for sjogrens. I did have a tube inserted into my right ear and I did have a laser procedure to release the pressure in my left eye. Neither help my balance problem or thigh problem. My thighs hurt when I walk or run, sitting or lying down. They hurt 24/7. I have no other problems.

Post 6

I've had a weak pain in my right arm and leg the past few days, I can't keep my right arm up without the weak feeling accompanied by the pain if continually used. Before this, I was experiencing vertigo and falling on my right side and walking into walls on my right side. There is nothing wrong with my vision, so I think I'll call my doctor tomorrow.

Post 5

I carry around my 22-pound baby some -- not a lot, but lately my left arm is so weak. Like right now, it takes effort to lift it! I also have a tingling sensation in my shoulder blade, neck and face at times.

I'm hoping this is just from carrying my heavy son, but it's scary because I have a newborn, too, and sometimes I feel like my arm will just go out completely and I'll drop her!

Good luck to the rest of you. I'm going to see my orthopedist!

Post 4

I've had some kind of food-poisoning or Norwalk virus. It started soon after eating some horrible fish and chips in Newcastle-on-Tyne (I only managed to eat half of the meal). Bloating and wind occurred followed by the need for frequent trips to the toilet over two days. There was also a headache. Just when I thought the illness was over, I suddenly vomited bright orange liquid (I managed to run out of the shop to a road drain). Rennies and Paracetamol bought later did help. Late, the shaky legs and cold sweats set in and my legs are still shaky a week later.

I do hope that it's not Guillan Barre syndrome (caused when the body's immune system goes ballistic and attacks everything). I am a senior citizen and by now, my immune system should know most of the bugs, but this one is something else.

Post 3

My legs (especially thighs) feel weak when I stand up from sitting on a chair. I wonder if my footstool is too high or too low or if there's something I can do about it. I do not have peripheral neuropathy, but I'm more worried since a family member has ALS.

Post 2

I get a bit of leg weakness when I sit down the wrong way. If I sit with my legs straight out in front of me for more than a few minutes my legs start to go numb and soon I can't feel them at all.

I never notice that it's happening, so when I go to get back up again I fall over.

It's the position you sit in when you're in a kayak, so I always thought maybe I shouldn't go kayaking, just because it could end up being dangerous if my legs don't work reliably.

But, my friend explained to me recently that as long as I keep my legs a bit bent, maybe putting something under them to help, they should be fine.

Post 1

Over exercise is what causes me to have temporary arm and hand weakness. The first time it happened it scared me a lot.

It was right after I went running, and I got home. I was reaching to try and open my door by turning the key and I could not manage to get the darn thing to turn.

I didn't have tingling fingers or anything, it wasn't numb, I just didn't seem to have the strength to turn the door.

Since I hadn't been using my hands at all (since I was running) I thought maybe something was seriously wrong.

But it happens a lot now and I think that I am simply holding my arms too tense when I run. So I try to relax as much as I can so that I don't make my hands weak, because even though it is temporary, it is annoying.

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