Muscle Wasting Disorders

Muscle wasting disorders may be caused by injury and immobilisation of a limb for a prolonged period of time. Another cause is an illness that keeps you confined to bed or affects movement. Muscle wasting due to non-use of a limb can sometimes be reversed. Advanced wasting of muscles may be irreversible.

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), also known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), is a progressive, chronic pain disorder. CRPS usually occurs after a minor injury and spreads throughout the body. Symptoms of CRPS include severe pain, burning pain, jerking of limbs, muscle spasms, skin that is cold or hot to the touch and skin discolouration. Muscle wasting with CRPS is caused by not using the affected limb because of pain and sensitivity to touch.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a progressive neurological disease that affects the muscles. Cells in the spine control movement of muscles in the body. As these nerve cells die, muscles begin to weaken, and as the disease progresses, muscle wasting begins. ALS typically begins in an extremity and spreads to the rest of the body, affecting the ability to move, speak and swallow. Paralysis of the muscles which confines the person to bed or a wheelchair causes muscle wasting.

Muscular dystrophy

Muscular dystrophy (MD) is a group of inherited disorders that affects the muscles, causing weakness and atrophy. A condition that occurs with MD is pseudohypertrophy. This condition can cause muscles to look larger than they are. Pseudohypertrophy disguises the muscle wasting of muscular dystrophy.


A stroke is caused by a blocked or ruptured blood vessel. A blood clot blocks a blood vessel and causes an ischemic stroke. A ruptured blood vessel causes a hemorrhagic stroke due to blood leaking into the brain. Both of the kinds of strokes cut off the oxygen supply to the brain. The longer the oxygen is cut off to the brain, the higher the chance brain cells will die. Death of brain cells can affect everything from movement to speech. Impaired movement and being confined to bed can cause muscle wasting due to lack of use.

Injury and Immobilization

Injuries such as broken bones or severe muscle tears that require a limb to be immobilised for an extended period of time can cause muscle wasting. Not being able to use the limb causes the muscles to atrophy. Physiotherapy typically reverses muscle wasting after injury once the injury has healed.

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About the Author

Marie Louise is passionate about her writing, bringing personal knowledge and experience on Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, chronic pain conditions, parenting, research, alternative medicine and animals. Her work appears on several different websites.