*Please note: if you experience a sudden loss of feeling or dramatic weakening in one or more of your limbs, call 911 or visit an emergency room immediately, as these symptoms can be signs of a number of different medical emergencies, such as stroke, Guillain-Barre syndrome, or a brain aneurism.
As soon as you are born, your body begins to grow and build muscle. This muscle mass helps babies learn to stand, walk, and run. As we grow we get even stronger, especially if we are physically active. But once we hit about age 30, our body stops this focus on growing muscle. Inactive persons can lose as much as 3%-5% of their muscle mass each decade after age 30 and even active people generally lose some muscle mass over the years. This process is called sarcopenia: age-related muscle mass. While it’s perfectly normal to lose some muscle mass after age 30, optimal health relies on keeping your muscles appropriately strong and healthy.
But if you’ve noticed that one of your arms or one of your legs is growing increasingly weak compared to the other arm or leg, that’s likely not the natural process of sarcopenia: there’s a good chance it is due to a medical condition and therefore, you should schedule an examination by a medical professional.
What could be causing this muscle weakness? Well, it turns out there are quite a few reasons one area of our body may experience more muscle loss than another area. In fact, WebMD.com lists 31 reasons you might experience loss of balance, muscle weakness, or tingling / numbness in an arm or a leg. Some of these are serious medical emergencies, like a stroke or a spinal or brain tumor. But the most common reasons for these symptoms are not as scary.
Many of the most common causes of progressive weakness in an arm or a leg relate to problems with the nerves that service the area. We all know what a pinched nerve feels like, but many people don’t know that a nerve can be “pinched” (or pressed on impinged) without the patient feeling what they would identify as a pinched nerve. Instead of that pinching feeling, compression of the nerve may simply reduce the nerve’s ability to get an send messages between muscles of a certain area and the brain. Over a longer period, this lack of communication between the brain and the muscles can cause the muscle to lose mass and, as a result, cause weakness in the affected area.
Chiropractic Might Be Able to Help Build Muscle Strength If the Weakness is Due to…
• Peripheral neuropathy
• Cervical spondylosis
• Migraine headaches
• Cervical (neck) spinal stenosis
• Thoracic spinal stenosis
How Chiropractic Can Help Increase Muscle Strength
If you schedule an appointment to see a chiropractor about weakness in one of your legs or arms, here’s how your first appointment will probably go:
Your chiropractor will want to discuss your medical history. Make sure to tell your chiropractor about any of the following:
• Your occupation and hobbies, especially if they are physical or require that you sit or stand for long periods of time
• Your exercise routine, if you have one
• Any injuries, including car accidents, falls (even minor), etc., no matter how long ago they were
• Surgeries you’ve had: when they were and on what part of your body
• Major illnesses or diseases, past or present
• Any medications you take regularly, whether they are prescription, over-the-counter, or even natural remedies
All of these things can help your chiropractor start to understand what might be the root of your muscle weakness. Your chiropractor may also want to take x-rays of your spine or other parts of your body so that they can see if your bones give any clues to what is ailing you.
Your chiropractor will also want to know more about why you are visiting and how your body is functioning overall. Since chiropractors are holistic, meaning that they take in the entire picture of your body and your health, they may want to discuss an area of the body that is remote from where you are experiencing pain or weakness. For instance, even if you have made the appointment because you are experiencing weakness in your right arm, your chiropractor may ask you to do some simple moves like bending forward and side-to-side at the waist or pressing down with each of your hands on your chiropractor’s hands. They may also want to feel the vertebrae in your neck.
If you’re wondering what your chiropractor is doing with all of these questions and simple movement tests, here it is: they are putting together the clues that your body is giving them to attempt to make an accurate diagnosis about what is causing your problem. Since gradually increasing weakness in an arm or leg could very likely be caused by an impinged nerve, your chiropractor may be able to determine where along your spine the nerve is experiencing difficulties, or if it is being impinged in another area of your body.
With that information, your chiropractor will be able to recommend a course of treatment. If the progressive weakness isn’t too advanced, you may start to see improvements in only a few chiropractic treatments. These treatments will likely focus on proper spine alignment and other subtle adjustments to bones and muscles to make sure your nerves are operating freely and without undue pressure. If your weakness is more progressed, it may take more treatments, along with strengthening exercises to regain muscle mass you may have lost.
Be sure that if your chiropractor suspects something more serious, they will direct you to the medical professionals who may be more appropriate for certain other ailments. But even in those cases, chiropractic can be a great support to treatments by physicians and even surgeons, in order to help your body support itself the best it can.
Preventative Measures with Chiropractic
Even if you’ve never suffered a pinched nerve and aren’t experiencing progressive weakness in any muscles, you may be interested in chiropractic treatment. Why? Because chiropractic treatments can stave off these kinds of problems by keep your spine properly aligned, hydrated, and flexible. Together with a healthy diet and an appropriate exercise regime, chiropractic can help you stay healthy and recover from injury and illness more quickly.