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Symptoms and causes of muscle weakness

Symptoms and causes of muscle weakness

Muscle weakness (myasthenia) ranges from a brief bout of weakness to paralysis. Muscle weakness can be the result of a harmless overexertion, but may also be a symptom or the consequence of a serious disorder.

Muscles fatigue extraordinarily fast and become less powerful. Muscles cannot move or exert force, or only to a limited extend – they are weak.

Muscle weakness has many causes including:

  • Overexertion and injury (from aching muscles to rupture of a muscle fiber, e.g. due to sports)
  • Wrong or unhealthy diet (lack of minerals and vitamins)
  • Accidents or disorders weakening the patient’s body, confining them to bed and causing immobility (e.g. stroke, infections or injury of the cruciate ligament in the knee, meniscus, spinal disk and back problems, hip surgery)
  • Denervation can cause muscle atrophy due to non-use, e.g. incomplete tetraplegia, peripheral nerve damage (after accident, surgery) – muscles weaken 
  • Psychological disorders, e.g. depression

Other causes may be certain drugs, alcohol, anemia, muscle and nerve damage caused by toxins, metabolic disorders (e.g. thyroid hypofunction), and circulatory disorders.

Muscle weakness may, however, also be a symptom of disorders such as:

  • Myositis
  • Muscle disorders (e.g. muscle dystrophy)
  • Neural disorders (e.g. polyneuropathy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis ALS)
  • Virus infections (polio)
  • Myasthenia gravis pseudoparalytica (abnormal muscle weakness, autoimmune disorder – disturbed signal transmission between muscle and nerve)
  • Herniated disk

People suffering from muscle weakness should seek medical advice. The causes of the weakness should be determined to enable targeted treatment and therapy.


This article contains only general information and must not be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. This information does not replace medical advice.