Muscle function loss occurs when your muscles don’t work or move
normally. Complete muscle function loss, or paralysis, is a complete loss of
muscle function, in which you can’t contract your muscles normally.
If your muscles lose function, you won’t be able to properly
operate the affected parts of your body. This symptom is often the sign of a
serious problem in your body, such as a severe injury, drug overdose, or coma.
A loss of muscle function can be permanent or temporary. However, all instances
of muscle function loss should be treated as a medical emergency.
Types of Muscle Function Loss
The loss of muscle function can be either partial or total. Partial
muscle function loss only affects a part of your body. This is the main symptom
in stroke victims. Total muscle function loss, or paralysis, affects your
entire body. It’s often seen in people with severe spinal cord injuries.
If a loss of muscle function affects both the top half and bottom
half of your body, it’s called quadriplegia. If it affects only the bottom half
of your body, it’s called paraplegia.
What Conditions Cause Loss of Muscle Function?
A loss of muscle function is often caused by a failure in the
nerves that send signals from your brain to your muscles and cause them to
When you’re healthy, you have control over muscle function in
your voluntary muscles. Voluntary muscles are skeletal muscles over which you
have full control. Involuntary muscles, such as your heart and intestinal
smooth muscles, aren’t under your conscious control. However, they too can stop
functioning. The loss of function in involuntary muscles can be fatal.
A loss of voluntary muscle function can be caused by a number of
things, including diseases affecting your muscles or nervous system.
Diseases of the Muscles
Diseases that directly affect the way your muscles function are
responsible for most cases of muscle function loss. Two of the more common
muscle diseases that cause muscle function loss are muscular dystrophy and
dermatomyositis. Muscular dystrophy is a group of diseases that cause your
muscles to become progressively weaker. Dermatomyositis is an inflammatory
disease that causes muscle weakness, as well as a distinctive skin rash.
Diseases of the Nervous System
Diseases that affect the way your nerves transmit signals to your
muscles can also cause muscle function loss. Some nervous system conditions
that cause paralysis are:
- Bell’s palsy, which causes partial paralysis of your
- Lou Gehrig’s disease
- cerebral palsy
Many of the diseases that cause a loss of muscle function are
hereditary and present at birth.
Injuries and Other Causes
Severe injuries also account for a large number of paralysis
cases. For example, if you fall from a ladder and injure your spinal cord, you
may experience a loss of muscle function.
Long-term drug use and medication side effects can also cause
muscle function loss.
Diagnosing the Cause of Muscle Function Loss
Before prescribing any treatment, your doctor will first diagnose
the cause of your muscle function loss. They’ll start by reviewing your medical
history. The location of your muscle function loss, the parts of your body
affected, and your other symptoms all give clues regarding the underlying
cause. They may also conduct tests to assess your muscle or nerve function.
Let your doctor know if your loss of muscle function came on
suddenly or gradually.
Also, mention the following:
- any additional symptoms
- medications you’re taking
- if you’re having trouble breathing
- if your loss of muscle function is temporary or
- if you have difficulty gripping items
After conducting a physical examination and reviewing your
medical history, your doctor may administer tests to see if a nerve or muscle
condition is causing your loss of muscle function.
These tests might include the following:
- In a muscle biopsy, your doctor removes a small
piece of your muscle tissue for examination.
- In a nerve biopsy, your doctor removes a small
piece of a potentially affected nerve for examination.
- Your doctor can use an MRI scan of your brain to
check for the presence of tumors or blood clots in your brain.
- Your doctor can perform a nerve conduction study
to test your nerve function by using electrical impulses.
Treatment Options for Muscle Function Loss
Treatment options are tailored to your particular needs. They may
- physical therapy
- occupational therapy
- medications, such as aspirin or warfarin
to lower your risk of stroke
- surgery to treat underlying muscle or nerve damage
- functional electrical stimulation, which is a
procedure used to stimulate paralyzed muscles by sending electrical shocks to your
Long-Term Outlook for People with Muscle Function Loss
In some cases, your symptoms will clear with treatment. In other
cases, you may experience partial or complete paralysis, even after treatment.
Your long-term outlook depends on the cause and severity of your
loss of muscle function. Talk to your doctor to learn more about your condition
Preventing Muscle Function Loss
Some causes of muscle function loss are difficult to prevent.
However, you can take steps to lower your risk of stroke and avoid accidental
- To lower your risk of stroke, eat a
well-balanced diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Limit salt,
added sugar, solid fats, and refined grains in your diet.
- Get regular exercise, including 150 minutes of moderate-intensity
activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week.
- You should avoid tobacco and limit your alcohol
- To reduce your chance of accidental injury,
avoid drinking and driving, and always wear your seatbelt while traveling in a
- Keep your home in good repair by fixing broken
or uneven steps, tacking down carpets, and installing handrails beside stairs.
- Clear ice and snow from your sidewalks and pick
up clutter to avoid tripping over it.
- If you’re using a ladder, always position it on
a level surface, fully open it before using it, and maintain three points of
contact on the rungs while climbing. For example, you should have at least two
feet and one hand or one foot and two hands on the rungs at all times.