Muscle Conditions

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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What are muscle conditions?

Muscle conditions include any disease or injury affecting the body’s muscles and resulting in dysfunction, atrophy, or paralysis. The most common cause of muscle conditions is injury.

Muscle conditions associated with injury are common. Disorders of the muscles due to inflammation (myositis), or myopathies (diseases of muscle tissue) occur less frequently and vary by specific condition.

Muscle conditions develop as the result of several processes. Injury-related muscle conditions most commonly result from overuse or trauma. Muscle disease may be caused by inflammation, genetic conditions, infection, cancer, or nerve disease. Most commonly, people develop muscle inflammation due to an injury, such as a strain or sprain. Overuse of a muscle resulting in inflammation of a tendon (tendinitis) is a common muscle condition. Less commonly, genetics play a role in muscle conditions that affect the neural, hormonal, or metabolic regulation of a muscle or muscle groups. Soft tissue sarcomas are a type of cancer that can cause a number of muscle conditions.

The signs and symptoms of muscle disorders vary by type. Acute injury-related muscle conditions can resolve relatively quickly whereas genetic or disease-related muscle conditions may last indefinitely. Muscle pain, spasm, stiffness, weakness, atrophy, and even paralysis are possible symptoms. Fortunately, many muscle conditions can be treated successfully with rest, anti-inflammatory medicines, physical therapy, and, in rare cases, surgery. Even better, you can reduce your risk of overuse-related muscle conditions by proper conditioning and warming up prior to engaging in strenuous activity.

In rare cases, muscle conditions may be a sign of a serious neuromuscular disorder. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, including difficulty lifting the front part of your foot and toes, weakness in your legs, feet or ankles, hand weakness or clumsiness, slurring of speech or trouble swallowing, or muscle cramps and twitching in your arms, shoulders and tongue.

Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for muscle conditions but mild symptoms recur or are persistent.

What are the symptoms of muscle conditions?

Muscle conditions cause dysfunction of the muscle fibers due to inflammation, nerve impingement, or nerve disorders and can cause a number of symptoms. The symptoms can vary in intensity among individuals.

Common muscle symptoms of muscle conditions

You may experience muscle condition symptoms daily or just once in a while. At times, any of these common muscle symptoms can be severe:

  • Bleeding or bruising
  • Cramping
  • Pain
  • Paralysis
  • Rigidity
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Wasting (atrophy)
  • Weakness

Symptoms that might indicate a serious condition

In some cases, muscle conditions can be a serious condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any of these serious symptoms:

What causes muscle conditions?

Muscle conditions include any disease or injury affecting the body’s muscles and resulting in dysfunction, atrophy, or paralysis. The most common cause of muscle conditions is injury.

Muscle conditions develop as the result of several processes. Muscle disease may be caused by inflammation, genetics, infection, cancer, or nerve disease. Most commonly, people develop muscle inflammation due to an injury, such as a strain or sprain.

Common causes of muscle conditions

Common causes of muscle conditions include:

  • Cancers
  • Genetic conditions, such as muscular dystrophy
  • Infections
  • Injury or trauma
  • Medication side effects
  • Myopathy (muscular disorders associated with muscle weakness)
  • Myositis (muscle inflammation)
  • Neuromuscular diseases
  • Overuse (strains, sprains)

What are the risk factors for muscle conditions?

A number of factors increase the risk of developing muscle conditions. Not all people with risk factors will get muscle conditions. Risk factors for muscle conditions include:

  • Genetic factors (for inherited muscle disorders such as muscular dystrophy)
  • Occupational activities that expose individual to injury hazards
  • Participation in sports or athletic activities, particularly without proper stretching or warm-up

How are muscle conditions treated?

Treatment for muscle conditions begins with seeking medical care from your health care provider. To determine if you have muscle conditions, your health care provider will ask you to undergo diagnostic testing. It is important to follow your treatment plan for muscle conditions precisely and to take all of the medications as instructed.

Treatment options for muscle conditions will depend on the specific type of condition or disease. Acute injuries will need treatment to reduce inflammation, such as ice therapy, possible immobilization or rest, or anti-inflammatory medicines. Chronic disease processes require supportive therapy, such as physical therapy, bracing, or surgery, to reduce symptoms, decrease inflammation if appropriate, and increase function. Pain management may be needed; options include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). Immune disorders affecting the muscles may be treated with immunosuppressive drugs to reduce inflammation, such as methotrexate (Trexall), or corticosteroids, such as prednisone (Deltasone).

What you can do to improve your muscle conditions

You can also prevent or limit muscle injury by:

  • Being physically active to properly condition muscles and prevent overuse injuries
  • Consistently using recommended protective gear at the workplace
  • Stretching before being physically active to prevent injury

Complementary treatments

Some complementary treatments may help some people to better deal with muscle conditions. These treatments, sometimes referred to as alternative therapies, are used in conjunction with traditional medical treatments. Complementary treatments are not meant to substitute for traditional medical care. Be sure to notify your doctor if you are consuming nutritional supplements or homeopathic (nonprescription) remedies as they may interact with the prescribed medical therapy.

Complementary treatments may include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Massage therapy
  • Nutritional dietary supplements, herbal remedies, tea beverages, and similar products
  • Yoga

What are the potential complications of muscle conditions?

Complications of untreated muscle conditions can be serious. You can help minimize your risk of serious complications by following the treatment plan you and your health care professional design specifically for you. Complications of muscle conditions include:

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Jan 11
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Muscle disorders. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/muscledisorders.html
  2. NINDS myopathy information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/myopathy/myopathy.htm