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Weakness is a loss of muscle strength. It may be caused by brain, nerve, or muscle problems. Physical and mental conditions such as heart problems, pregnancy, dehydration, or depression may also cause weakness. Reactions to certain drugs can cause weakness. Parts of your body may become weak if you need to wear a cast or splint or have been on bed rest for a long time.


Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have any of the following signs of a heart attack:
    • Squeezing, pressure, or pain in your chest that lasts longer than 5 minutes or returns
    • Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm
    • Trouble breathing
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Lightheadedness or a sudden cold sweat, especially with chest pain or trouble breathing
  • You have any of the following signs of a stroke:
    • Numbness or drooping on one side of your face
    • Weakness in an arm or leg
    • Confusion or difficulty speaking
    • Dizziness, a severe headache, or vision loss
  • You lose feeling in your weakened body area.
  • You have electric shock-like feelings down your arms and legs when you flex or move your neck.
  • You have sudden or increased trouble speaking, swallowing, or breathing.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • You have severe pain in your back, arms, or legs that worsens.
  • You have sudden or worsened muscle weakness or loss of movement.
  • You are not able to control when you urinate or have a bowel movement.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You feel depressed or anxious.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Manage your symptoms:

  • Use assistive devices as directed. These help protect you from injury. Examples include a walker or cane. Have someone install handrails in your home. These will help you get out of a bathtub or stand up from a toilet. Get help going up and down stairs if your legs are weak.
  • Do range of motion exercises as directed. These exercises help increase movement in your weakened body part. This may happen if you have chronic weakness. Your healthcare provider or physical therapist will teach you exercises to do.
  • Exercise and rest as directed. You may need more rest than usual. Balance rest with exercise. Exercise can help increase your muscle strength and energy. Do not exercise for long periods at a time. Too much exercise can cause muscle strain or make you more tired. Ask your healthcare provider how much exercise is right for you.
  • Manage stress. Try to avoid stress if possible. Stress may make your symptoms worse.
  • Eat healthy foods. Too much or too little food may cause weakness or tiredness. Ask your healthcare provider what a healthy amount of food is for you. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, lean meats and fish, nuts, and cooked beans.
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can make your symptoms worse, and can cause lung damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
  • Do not use caffeine, alcohol, or illegal drugs. These may cause muscle twitching, which could lead to worsened weakness.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.