Understanding muscle weakness symptoms
Your body has around 600 muscles consisting of three types of muscles: skeletal, cardiac, and smooth. Muscles comprise 40% of your body weight2.
Smooth muscles help aid in digestion, while cardiac muscles enable your heart to beat correctly. The muscles responsible for movement are skeletal muscles. When your body works right, you should be able to move your skeletal muscles at will, that is, whenever you want them to.
While each muscle type has a specific purpose, the different muscle types work together to help your body function at its best. So, it’s possible that when there’s a problem with one type of muscle, it can affect other areas of your body.
Skeletal muscles give your body the power and strength it needs to move. When the skeletal muscles in your legs contract, they allow motion in your legs. The smaller muscles in your legs help you to rotate the joints in your legs and promote stability.
When your leg muscles don’t contract as they should, you may feel as though the muscles in your legs are weak. Some people say their legs feel like rubber or jelly when their leg strength is diminished. Weak leg muscles can make it difficult to walk or stand. Because you may not feel as stable, you may feel less confident walking or experience a fall – both of which makes you walk even less.
One thing is sure. If your legs are weak, you may naturally feel vulnerable. Sometimes understanding the causes behind your leg weakness can help. Then, perhaps you can find ways to improve the weakness.
Common causes for Leg Weakness
Here are three common health conditions that contribute to the process of muscle loss.
People often think osteoarthritis only affects the older people, but young people have this condition as well. Knee injuries caused by repetitive use for example repeated squatting or kneeling as part of your job or sustaining a knee injury from sports, being overweight or simply the years of wear and tear of our knees can cause knee osteoarthritis. If you have osteoarthritic knees, your knees will feel painful, swollen and stiff. You don’t feel like moving much because of the pain. You reduce your walking exercise and eventually your muscles, especially your leg muscles, start to shrink. As a result, many people with knee osteoarthritis experience weakness in their legs as well.
The Australian Institute of Health & Welfare reported a 38% rise in the rate of total knee replacements for osteoarthritis between 2005-6 and 2017-183.
Like most surgeries, it may take a while before a person can resume normal activity. After a knee operation or surgery to your lower leg, it can take up to 6 weeks before you get back to normal leisure activity.
During that time, you may experience a lot of pain and discomfort in your legs.
You may not feel like moving around much and prefer sitting and resting on the couch. However, the contrary is important – getting up and walking is needed to prevent muscle atrophy and weakness in your legs. If you don’t start including movement into your recovery, you’ll soon find your legs muscles aren’t as strong as they used to be.
It is important to talk to your doctor and work with a physiotherapist on a treatment plan to safely strengthen your leg muscles after a knee or lower leg operation.
We’ve all heard it before – aim for 10,000 steps a day! It sounds simple yet most of us struggle even with achieving 30 minutes of exercise a day. Unfortunately, sitting takes up most of our day especially if we work in an office.
Add on the fact that we eat at least the same amount of calories and have meals that are imbalanced filled with more fat and sugar than protein and nutrient-dense carbohydrates. It’s no wonder that many working and retired adults find themselves putting on weight more easily than when they were growing teenagers.
The lack of activity and unhealthy eating will cause weight gain which puts more stress on our knees. In time, your muscles will also atrophy or shrink due to the sedentary life, leading to a feeling of less strength in the legs or leg weakness as you age.
Preventing muscle loss and strengthening your legs
Can we slow down muscle loss and even rebuild muscle mass in our 40s, 50s and older? The answer is yes.
First of all, if you have an existing medical condition, seek your doctor’s advice in treating your health condition. Then ask them about their recommendations to help you stay as active as possible. If your doctor gives the green light to take on physical activities to prevent further muscle loss and improve your leg weakness, consider the following:
Though a health setback might limit your mobility, simply walking more around the house, or moving your legs while at your office desk can help improve the circulation in them. If you are experiencing muscle weakness post knee surgery or due to knee osteoarthritis, the use of Revitive Circulation Booster can help stimulate the muscles in your quadricep muscles and calves to increase blood flow to your legs and feet, and strengthen your muscles which may help with your mobility.
Regular strength training can help you retain and gain muscle. Meet with a physical trainer to learn the right resistance exercises that can help build muscle. Regular swimming or even just walking in a pool can provide the resistance to help you build your muscles3.
Many people think that they should eat less, especially less proteins and carbohydrate, when they become adults because they have stopped their teenage growth spurts. On the contrary, a diet with a good intake of protein and nutrient-dense carbs is very important in rebuilding and retaining muscle mass. Talk to your doctor or a nutritionist about a suitable meal plan which helps to maximize the appropriate nutrients for your age and for retaining your muscles.
Get back to doing the things you love
While some degree of leg muscle loss is expected as you get older, there are ways to minimize it or even regain your muscles. It’s vital to do so because strong muscles mean being able to keep mobile and active to do the things you love most.
If you have a pre-existing medical condition, follow your doctor’s advice and talk about a suitable treatment plan that includes physical activity and nutrition to keep you moving.
Disclaimer: This content is not intended as medical advice. We believe in helping people to make informed decisions about their health. We hope to empower you to ask your physician the right questions so you can both agree on a treatment plan that’s right for you.
- Research Gate website, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/221916428_Sarcopenia_Sarcopenic_Obesity_and_Insulin_Resistance
- Strength & muscle mass loss with aging process. Age and strength loss K Keller & M Engelhardt https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3940510/
- Australian Institute of Health & Welfare, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/phe/232/osteoarthritis/contents/treatment-management
- The New Daily, https://thenewdaily.com.au/life/wellbeing/2019/02/25/joint-replacements-to-rise-200pc/
- National Health Service, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/knee-replacement/recovery/
- Healthline website, https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/water-walking#bottom-line
- American Senior Communities website, https://www.asccare.com/swimming-for-seniors/
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