Muscular weakness refers to a situation in which a muscle or group of muscles cannot produce the strength needed for a task. Muscular weakness is always evaluated relative to a task - an average, untrained middle-aged individual with no underlying health conditions could reasonably be expected to be able to stand, walk, and maintain their posture. This same individual may not be able to execute a one-hundred kilogram clean with perfect technique. For this reason, whenever considering muscular weakness, it's important to think about the activity as well - does the effort need to be exerted over a short or long period of time? Is the movement repetitive, held, or awkward? Is muscular effort needed in combination with some other effort, like endurance, balance, or fine coordination? These questions make the evaluation and management of muscular weakness a nuanced process.
Muscular weakness can happen after periods of intense exercise or effort. This is muscular fatigue and is a normal part of living. The harder muscle groups will need to work, the longer they will need to rest. Even if the effort isn't intense but sustained, muscle groups can become fatigued with time. Anyone who's started slouching after a long period of sitting down at a desk can attest to that. Muscular fatigue can become a problem if the fatigue occurs earlier than expected or takes a longer time than usual to recover. Muscular weakness can be one cause of this - the muscle groups don't have enough strength or capacity to work in the way that they are needed. In this case, treatment for muscular weakness involved strengthening and conditioning of the muscle groups - exposing them to controlled and escalated loading in such a manner that they become capable of efforts that are stronger, more sustained, and more repeatable. This conditioning is typically done as part of a broader treatment regimen, and can be done in clinic, in a gym, or in the privacy of someone's own home.
There are other causes for muscular weakness in addition to this, such as illnesses, injuries, changes in the connection between the muscle and the brain, and changes in the physiology of the muscle itself. In these cases, weakness is the result of a process that needs to be addressed alongside strengthening the muscles themselves. Common causes of muscular weakness in this way include decreased endurance because of changes to the heart and lungs, decreased strength due to a stroke, decreased coordination and sustainability of movements because of Parkinson's disease, and many other factors. Normal function of the human body requires strength, endurance, coordination, balance, and reflex, and any program of rehabilitation needs to take all of those factors into account.
Muscular weakness is usually addressed by strengthening. Strengthening the muscles is accomplished by exposing muscles and muscle groups to controlled loading, which causes muscular adaptation and improvements in power, endurance, and working capacity over time. By strengthening your muscles and improving your overall physical capacity, you improve the quality your balance, the resistivity of your bones, the efficiency of your heart and lungs, alongside other benefits that are too numerous to list. Muscular strengthening and conditioning is the basis of all physiotherapy intervention, and every individual treatment has a strengthening component within it, to best address the issue at hand and to prepare the body for what may be ahead.
Management of your discomfort depends on its causative factors, how it feels and changes during the day, what makes it better and worse, and the length of time you have been experiencing that pain. All of these factors will be addressed in your initial assessment, which is the first step toward managing and minimising any pain or discomfort. The treatment you receive will be tailored to address the specific cause of your discomfort, and will focus on minimising pain, maximising your ability to move pain-free, and developing a plan to minimise the risk of a flare-up in the future.
At Atlas Physio, we will provide you with education, structured management, and ongoing monitoring of your pain both in-clinic and out. Contact us to arrange an assessment, and to take the first step on a course of corrective care today.