Weakness in Legs | 9 Possible Causes, Treatment & More | Buoy (2022)

Inflammatory conditions

Leg weakness can be caused by inflammation, which is the body’s normal response to injury or infection. Sometimes the body’s immune system is activated when it’s not supposed to which leads to autoimmune inflammatory disease.

  • Infections: Bacterial or viral infections can damage the brain, nerves, or spinal cord, leading to leg weakness.
  • Autoimmune diseases: An autoimmune disease occurs when the immune system, which usually works to protect you against diseases and infections, instead starts to attack the healthy cells that make up your body. Sometimes these autoimmune diseases can affect the muscles or nerves of the legs leading to leg weakness.

Medication side effects

Listed below are some medications and treatments that can lead to leg weakness by affecting the muscles in your legs.

  • Cholesterol-reducing medications like statins
  • Some types of chemotherapy for cancer or autoimmune diseases
  • Anti-inflammatory medications like steroids

This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Beriberi (adult)

A low level of vitamin B1 (thiamin) can cause damage to the heart, brain and nerves. This can result in symptoms like weakness, amnesia, nerve pain and symptoms of heart failure like swelling of limbs and shortness of breath.

Rarity: Ultra rare

Top Symptoms: abdominal pain (stomach ache), shortness of breath, anxiety, chest pain, distal numbness

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Cauda equina syndrome

Although leg pain is common and usually goes away without surgery, cauda equina syndrome, a rare disorder affecting the bundle of nerve roots (cauda equina) at the lower (lumbar) end of the spinal cord, is a surgical emergency.

Rarity: Ultra rare

Top Symptoms: lower back pain, back pain that shoots to the butt, back pain that shoots down the leg, leg weakness, thigh numbness

Urgency: Emergency medical service

Wernicke-korsakoff syndrome

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, or WKS, is a neurologic disorder. The names represent the acute stage of the illness, called Wernicke's Encephalopathy, and the chronic stage, called Korsakoff Syndrome.

WKS is caused by a deficiency of thiamine, or vitamin B1. It is most often seen in alcoholics; anyone who has had a poor diet, eating disorder, or weight-loss surgery; and those with serious illness such as cancer or AIDS.

Acute symptoms are primarily physical and include abnormal, uncoordinated walking and standing; flickering eye movements called nystagmus; and damage to the heart and nervous system. There may also be profound drowsiness that can lead to coma.

Chronic symptoms are primarily mental and include short-term memory loss and dementia-like behavior.

The acute stages of WKS can be a life-threatening medical emergency. Take the patient to the emergency room or call 9-1-1.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination and blood tests.

Treatment involves simply adding thiamine supplements to the diet, as well as treating any remaining symptoms to aid in recovery.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: nausea or vomiting, leg numbness, feeling confused and not making sense while talking, amnesia, jerky, unsteady, or uncoordinated walk

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Stroke or tia (transient ischemic attack)

Transient ischemic attack, or TIA, is sometimes called a "mini stroke" or a "warning stroke." Any stroke means that blood flow somewhere in the brain has been blocked by a clot.

Risk factors include smoking, obesity, and cardiovascular disease, though anyone can experience a TIA.

Symptoms are "transient," meaning they come and go within minutes because the clot dissolves or moves on its own. Stroke symptoms include weakness, numbness, and paralysis on one side of the face and/or body; slurred speech; abnormal vision; and sudden, severe headache.

A TIA does not cause permanent damage because it is over quickly. However, the patient must get treatment because a TIA is a warning that a more damaging stroke is likely to occur. Take the patient to the emergency room or call 9-1-1.

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Diagnosis is made through patient history; physical examination; CT scan or MRI; and electrocardiogram.

Treatment includes anticoagulant medication to prevent further clots. Surgery to clear some of the arteries may also be recommended.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: dizziness, leg numbness, arm numbness, new headache, stiff neck

Symptoms that never occur with stroke or tia (transient ischemic attack): bilateral weakness

Urgency: Emergency medical service

Spinal stenosis

The spine, or backbone, protects the spinal cord and allows people to stand and bend. Spinal stenosis causes narrowing in the spine. The narrowing puts pressure on nerves and the spinal cord and can cause pain.

Next steps including visiting a primary care physician. For this condition, a physician might suggest further investigation including imaging of the spine. Treatments may include medications, physical therapy, or braces. For severe cases, surgery is sometimes recommended.

Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy

Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy is an inherited disorder that involves varying muscle weakness and wasting.

You should visit your primary care physician to confirm the diagnosis and discuss treatment options for managing symptoms.

Idiopathic inflammatory myopathy

Idiopathic inflammatory myopathy refers to a closely related group of conditions that cause inflammation of muscle tissue.

Make an appointment with a physician to determine exactly what subtype of inflammatory myopathy you are experiencing. The physician will most likely prescribe a oral steroid to reduce inflammation and put in an IV to protect the kidneys.

Herniated (slipped) disk in the back

A herniated, ruptured, or "slipped" disc means that a vertebral disc – one of the soft pads of tissue that sit between each of the vertebral bones – has becomes squeezed out of shape. Its cushioning material has been forced against, and possibly through, the ring of fibrous tissue that normally contains it. This causes pain, numbness, and weakness in the legs.

The normal aging process causes the discs lose moisture and become thinner, making them more vulnerable to "slipping."

Most susceptible are men from ages 30 to 50. Smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, and improper lifting are also risk factors.

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Symptoms include pain, weakness, numbness, and tingling in the back, leg, and foot.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, neurological examination, and MRI scan.

Treatment begins with rest, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy, and sometimes epidural steroid injections into the back to ease pain and inflammation.

Surgery to remove the herniated part of the disc – the part that was squeezed out of place – can also be helpful.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: lower back pain, moderate back pain, back pain that shoots down the leg, back pain that gets worse when sitting, leg weakness

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Chronic idiopathic peripheral neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy refers to the feeling of numbness, tingling, and pins-and-needles sensation in the feet. Idiopathic means the cause is not known, and chronic means the condition is ongoing without getting better or worse.

The condition is most often found in people over age 60. Idiopathic neuropathy has no known cause.

Symptoms include uncomfortable numbness and tingling in the feet; difficulty standing or walking due to pain and lack of normal sensitivity; and weakness and cramping in the muscles of the feet and ankles.

Peripheral neuropathy can greatly interfere with quality of life, so a medical provider should be seen in order to treat the symptoms and reduce the discomfort.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination; blood tests to rule out other conditions; and neurologic and muscle studies such as electromyography.

Treatment involves over-the-counter pain relievers; prescription pain relievers to manage more severe pain; physical therapy and safety measures to compensate for loss of sensation in the feet; and therapeutic footwear to help with balance and walking.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: distal numbness, muscle aches, joint stiffness, numbness on both sides of body, loss of muscle mass

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Urgency: Primary care doctor

Cauda equina syndrome (rapid-onset)

Although leg pain is common and usually goes away without surgery, cauda equina syndrome, a rare disorder affecting the bundle of nerve roots (cauda equina) at the lower (lumbar) end of the spinal cord, is a surgical emergency.

Call 911 immediately for an ambulance.

Beriberi

A low level of vitamin B1 (thiamin) can cause damage to the heart, brain and nerves. This can result in symptoms like weakness, amnesia, nerve pain and symptoms of heart failure like swelling of limbs and shortness of breath.

You should seek immediate medical care at an ER. You may need to be admitted to the hospital to get treatment with a vitamin B1 infusion.

Becker muscular dystrophy

Becker muscular dystrophy is an inherited disorder that involves slowly worsening muscle weakness of the legs and pelvis

You should visit your primary care physician to confirm the diagnosis and discuss treatment options for managing symptoms.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is also called ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease. It is a degenerative disease that destroys nerve cells, which eventually leads to loss of control over muscle function.

The cause of ALS is not known. It may be inherited and/or due to a chemical imbalance, faulty autoimmune response, or exposure to toxic environmental agents.

Symptoms include weakness; difficulty with speaking, swallowing, walking, or using the hands; and muscle cramps. The muscles of the arms, hands, legs, and feet are most involved at first. It does not affect the senses or a person's mental ability.

ALS is progressive, meaning it worsens over time. There is no cure, but supportive care can keep the patient comfortable and improve quality of life.

Diagnosis is made through several tests including blood tests; urine tests; MRI; electromyography (EMG) to measure muscle activity; nerve conduction studies; and sometimes muscle biopsy or spinal tap (lumbar puncture.)

Treatment involves medications to both slow the progression of the disease and ease the symptoms; respiratory therapy; physical therapy; occupational therapy; and psychological support.

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Questions your doctor may ask about weakness of both legs

  • Are you allergic to anything?
  • Do your symptoms improve with Ibuprofen/Advil/Motrin, known as NSAIDs?
  • Have a friend stand across from you and hold out a finger. Touch that finger and then touch your nose. Move the target finger around and start going faster. Are you having trouble?
  • Do you find yourself getting weaker and weaker?

Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.

(Video) Muscle weakness (Medical Symptom)

FAQs

How can I restore my weakness in my legs? ›

This approach involves the following:
  1. Rest. Take a break and rest your legs. ...
  2. Ice. You can ice your legs or soak them in ice water for 20 minutes at a time. ...
  3. Compression. Wrap your legs in a compression bandage to reduce swelling.
  4. Elevation. Keep your legs raised with some pillows to reduce any swelling or discomfort.
Jun 26, 2018

What is the main cause of weak legs? ›

Some causes of leg weakness can be genetic or hereditary, and passed down through generations in a family. Some examples include muscular and myotonic dystrophies. Genetic causes of leg weakness usually lead to progressive weakness, meaning the weakness gets worse over time.

How do you get your leg strength back? ›

9 Best Exercises to Strengthen Your Legs
  1. Alternating Knee Lifts. It's smart to start any strength training workout with an exercise that doubles as cardio and a muscle builder. ...
  2. Squats. ...
  3. Lunges. ...
  4. Calf Raises. ...
  5. Side Hip Raises. ...
  6. Knee Extensions. ...
  7. Knee Curls. ...
  8. Leg Extensions.
May 21, 2020

What vitamin is good for tired legs? ›

Vitamin D helps your body use calcium. But when you're deficient in this vitamin, your legs may feel weak, sore and heavy.

What food makes your legs stronger? ›

What to eat to bulk up
  1. meats like sirloin steak, pork tenderloin, chicken breast, and tilapia.
  2. dairy like cheese, yogurt, and low fat milk.
  3. grains like oatmeal, quinoa, and whole-grain breads.
  4. fruits like bananas, grapes, watermelon, and berries.
  5. starchy vegetables like potatoes, lima beans, and cassava.
Aug 27, 2020

Why am I losing the strength in my legs? ›

Chronic leg muscle weakness includes. As you get older and become less active, your body will undergo muscle loss. Studies show that adults age 50 and older lose 15% of their muscle strength each decade as they age. This can reduce your endurance to the point that you feel weaker in your legs.

How can I reduce weakness at home? ›

  1. Have a drink of water. Dehydration can leave you feeling drained and fatigued. ...
  2. Go nuts. Eat a handful of almonds or peanuts, which are high in magnesium and folate (folic acid). ...
  3. Grab a cinnamon stick. ...
  4. Get moving. ...
  5. Let the sunshine in. ...
  6. Have a bite. ...
  7. Hang out with upbeat friends.
Mar 5, 2022

Can muscle weakness be cured? ›

There are many possible causes of muscle weakness. These range from common to rare, serious to minor, temporary to permanent. Fortunately, most cases of muscle weakness which lack obvious cause are reversible. Muscle weakness is rarely the only sign of serious underlying disease.

What food is good for weak muscles? ›

Muscle building foods for gaining lean muscle
  • Eggs. Eggs contain high quality protein, healthy fats, and other important nutrients like B vitamins and choline ( 1 ). ...
  • Salmon. Salmon is a great choice for muscle building and overall health. ...
  • Chicken breast. ...
  • Greek yogurt. ...
  • Tuna. ...
  • Lean beef. ...
  • Shrimp. ...
  • Soybeans.
Feb 26, 2019

How do I start walking again? ›

Try walking briskly at a 3 to 3.5-mph pace (walking a mile in 17-20 minutes), beginning with 10 minutes per day for the first three weeks. Slowly increase the time you walk by 5 minutes per week until you are able to walk 30 minutes per day, six days per week. If you are already in good shape, start at this level.

What foods help tired legs? ›

  • Unprocessed foods. While a cheeseburger and fries might be comforting while you're eating it, it's nutritional value is low. ...
  • Fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables. ...
  • Non-caffeinated beverages. ...
  • Lean proteins. ...
  • Whole grains and complex carbs. ...
  • Nuts and seeds. ...
  • Water. ...
  • Vitamins and supplements.

What foods is vitamin B12 in? ›

Vitamin B12 is naturally present in foods of animal origin, including fish, meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products [5]. In addition, fortified breakfast cereals and fortified nutritional yeasts are readily available sources of vitamin B12 that have high bioavailability [12,13].

What foods contain vitamin B12? ›

Good sources of vitamin B12
  • meat.
  • fish.
  • milk.
  • cheese.
  • eggs.
  • some fortified breakfast cereals.

Why am I losing the strength in my legs? ›

A feeling of sudden leg weakness, causing your legs to give out or buckle can be alarming. Weakness in your leg(s) may occur from problems in the nerves and/or muscles in your lower body and is usually treatable. Rarely, the underlying cause may be a serious medical condition requiring immediate medical attention.

What food makes your legs stronger? ›

What to eat to bulk up
  1. meats like sirloin steak, pork tenderloin, chicken breast, and tilapia.
  2. dairy like cheese, yogurt, and low fat milk.
  3. grains like oatmeal, quinoa, and whole-grain breads.
  4. fruits like bananas, grapes, watermelon, and berries.
  5. starchy vegetables like potatoes, lima beans, and cassava.
Aug 27, 2020

How can I strengthen my legs at home? ›

9-Minute Home Workout for Strong Legs Without Weights - YouTube

What fruit is good for legs? ›

A diet rich in vegetables and fruits can keep leg arteries free of blockages, help in calcium absorption, and maintain bone mass. Fruits: Calcium absorption: blackberries, clementines, dates, dried apricots.

Which fruit is good for strength? ›

What fruit is best for bodybuilding? Bananas, dates, and raisins are excellent fruits for muscle development. These are the most calorie-dense choices, which will help you achieve the calorie excess required to grow.

How long does it take to strengthen weak legs? ›

You're likely to see some results two to four weeks after starting a leg exercise program. This includes slightly better stamina and a little muscular definition. However, depending on your starting fitness level, it usually takes three to four months to really notice and tell improvements in leg strength and stamina.

How do I start walking again? ›

Try walking briskly at a 3 to 3.5-mph pace (walking a mile in 17-20 minutes), beginning with 10 minutes per day for the first three weeks. Slowly increase the time you walk by 5 minutes per week until you are able to walk 30 minutes per day, six days per week. If you are already in good shape, start at this level.

What is the best exercise for your legs? ›

Lunges work both your legs and your core muscles. They work your upper legs including the hamstrings, glutes (or butt muscles), hips, and quadriceps. If you have knee pain, you may want to avoid this exercise. Check with your doctor to make sure lunges are a good exercise for you.

This can cause compression of spinal nerves which is also known as nerve root compression commonly referred to as a pinched lower back nerve .. It is commonly seen in conditions like sciatica where the sciatic nerve is compressed.. Nerve damage is almost always permanent as nerve tissue does not regenerate.. Sometime leg weakness may be due to serious condition like a brain stroke .. Leg weakness most commonly arises from nerve compression in the lower back.. Therefore pain in the lower back region should not be ignored, especially if it is long standing.. After these investigations and the physical examination, leg weakness can be attributed to compression of spinal cord, compression of spinal nerve or local nerve disease.. Leg weakness caused by spinal cord or nerve compression are treated by surgery.

This kind of muscle weakness can vary in severity and can affect one or both of your legs.. Fatigue with strenuous or prolonged activity Numbness or pain in the lower leg muscles and foot Muscle spasms Prickling or burning sensation Swelling due to overworked muscles Pain in the lower back Body aches Tremors in the legs Loss of muscle coordination and balance resulting in frequent falling or tripping accidents. Strenuous physical activity When you push your legs beyond the regular degree of exercise that they are accustomed to or engage in a physically exacting task for an extended period, your leg muscles tend to become tired and sore.. Nutritional deficiency Weakness in the legs can also be the body’s way of telling you that you are running low on certain essential nutrients, such as vitamin D, calcium, iron, and magnesium, or electrolytes, such as potassium and sodium, all of which are required by the body for building and maintaining strong, healthy bones and muscles.. As age increases, “some elderly people will experience general leg weakness due to inactivity,” as stated by Dr. Estelle Farrell, a physiatrist at Vibrant Health Care, Valley of The Sun Institute for Pain Management, Pima Pain Center.. Postsurgical recuperation Inadequate rest and follow-up care after a leg surgery can give rise to muscle weakness in the affected leg.. Poor blood circulation Reduced or inadequate blood supply to your lower limbs can make your legs feel utterly weak.. Functional limb weakness This is simply a perceived weakness that is not related to a clearly recognized neurological disorder.. Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease can make your limbs considerably weak due to the progressive loss of muscle mass and sensory function.. Weak legs can be due to poor health or neurological issues originating from the brain or the spine.. Are weak legs the same as jelly legs?. The elderly can have weak legs because of multiple issues, such as the normal process of aging, side effects of drugs, generalized poor health, depression, neurological issues, and issues originating in the spine.. Spine issues manifest as lower back pain and weakness in legs with limited walking distance.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.. Weakness in the hands can mean the presence of:. When complaining about the weakness of the muscles of the arms and legs, you first need to make sure that this symptom is the only one, or it is accompanied by pain, numbness, sensitivity disorders, etc.. The weakness of muscles can be the result of many diseases and conditions of the body.. In any case, to determine the cause of the disease should consult a doctor, since treatment should be directed to the elimination of the underlying disease.. Indeed, a characteristic symptom of this pathology is the numbness of one half of the body, in this case the left one.. The condition when hands are shaking and there is weakness in the legs is often and often not the result of any one reason.. Physiological trembling of the hands and weakness in the legs is the most common condition.

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a chronic condition that reduces blood flow in the arteries, usually arteries that lead to the legs.. Symptoms include leg numbness, foot and thigh pain, cold feet, and muscle fatigue.. Top Symptoms: leg numbness, spontaneous foot pain, decreased exercise tolerance, cold feet, thigh pain. Symptoms include pain, weakness, numbness, and tingling in the back, leg, and foot.. Top Symptoms: lower back pain, moderate back pain, back pain that shoots down the leg, back pain that gets worse when sitting, leg weakness. Fibromyalgia does not go away on its own but does not get worse, either.. Anyone with diabetes is at risk for peripheral neuropathy, especially if the person is overweight and/or a smoker.. For this reason, signs of peripheral neuropathy are considered a medical emergency and the person should see a medical provider as soon as possible.. The condition is most often found in people over age 60.. Peripheral neuropathy can greatly interfere with quality of life, so a medical provider should be seen in order to treat the symptoms and reduce the discomfort.. Treatment involves over-the-counter pain relievers; prescription pain relievers to manage more severe pain; physical therapy and safety measures to compensate for loss of sensation in the feet; and therapeutic footwear to help with balance and walking.

People who are prone to weakness in the legs should adopt a multifaceted approach to build back their muscle strength.. Here’s what you can do at home to overcome leg weakness.. The increase in blood flow can bring more nutrients to your worn-out leg muscles and may help repair the damage.. Pushing your already weakened legs beyond a point can be counterproductive, so exercise only to the extent that it is comfortably tolerable.. b. Yoga Yoga is another preferred form of exercise for people with frail lower limbs.. Note: If you have some form of kidney problems, it is essential that you consult your doctor before making any major changes to your fluid intake.. This kind of specialized physical therapy is also recommended for people who have had their leg operated and as a supportive care tool for people with the following conditions:. Walking qualifies as a low-intensity exercise that can be performed even when your legs feel kind of feeble.. Keeping your leg muscles active is essential for building their strength and overall mass.. This form of gentle exercise may also help flex and tone your leg muscles and increases blood flow to the damaged tissue.. People with weakened legs should start with slow, low-intensity walks and gradually increase the duration, distance, and speed on the advice of their doctor.. Protein Protein is extremely important for building and preserving your muscle mass and strength.. International journal of clinical and experimental medicine.. Chinese journal of integrative medicine.. Journal of physical therapy science.

What causes weakness in legs?. There are many different things that can cause muscle weakness in legs.. These are just some of the many things that can cause you to experience muscle weakness in legs.. Leg weakness can also accompany other leg symptoms: Muscle spasms in the leg Burning sensation in the leg Paralysis in the leg Numbness in the leg Feeling of pins-and-needles in the leg Redness, swelling or warmth in the leg Twitching or tingling in the leg. Weak feeling in legs is often a symptom of some other medical condition.. When the cause of the weakness in legs is treated then the patient feels relieved of that, but still may have the other issue that caused it.

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