My muscle atrophy (please respond)

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Very helpful member
Jan 12, 2008
I am seeing muscle atrophy on one side of my body:
shoulder, bicep, forearm, upper back and lower back (again, all on the right side). . . all of this has happened in a matter of a month. My muscles are still proportinate and they aren't that much smaller, but they are DEFINITELY smaller. I am an avid weight lifter and I know my body very well. Would ALS affect that many muscles at one time and that quickly? I had a negative EMG about a week ago, but I've read on here that sometimes if they're done too early they can be negative. I am so incredibly stressed-out right now!

One other thing . . . I'm not fasciculating in those areas of my body . . . at least that I am aware of.
It's very unusual to lose noticible muscle in a month. Being an avid bodybuilder there should be a record of your muscle size at the gym. Can you check and then you'll know if and how much for sure.
You always seem to come through on here Al

My muscle atrophy is only noticeable by me . . . because I am so in-tune with my body. No one else has noticed . . . the changes are minor but real. I have measured and my arms are smaller (about 0.5 inches) and I can see a difference in my back muscles . . . day by day. I just can't believe this is happening.
Again, does ALS affect so many muscles at once? I thought it took a certain section at a time . . . and usually the hands first . . . not upper arms and torso first . . . I thought the torso muscles were the last ones to go!
Anyone else with some insight would be greatly appreciated. :?:(

When my husband was first having problems with fasics,he asked the dr. about lifting just to stay in shape. We were told that if you lift too much it could weaken the muscle more,,so only do minimal just to maintain. Nothing too heavy. My husband got weak kind of quickly,by his standards. That's just a thought.
Thank you for the tip, APC. I haven't been in the gym in some time because of my condition, though. I have lost size because of it but more of my size on the right side of my body and again, mainly in my affected (i.e. mildly weakened) arm and now in my back muscles. How can that be that my back muscles are starting to atrophy? Since all of this has started, I have never heard of such a thing. And I'm only mildly weak . . . not even close to being clinically weak . . . although my arms fatigue fairly quickly.

Al, if you're reading this: you said you butt muscles were the first to go. But aren't those considered part of your limbs? Have you lost any muscle in your torso? You also said that you started to have fasics and they didn't stop until your muscles were gone: is that what happened with you butt muscles and the rest of your muscles? I'm not feeling many fasics in my back or affected arm . . . although if I use the arm a lot, it seems to fatigue and then fasic a little bit. Nothing at rest, though.

I wish I could calm down and be more brave about this . . . but just two months ago . . . I was in such great shape . . . physically and mentally. Now I'm a complete mess. :(
Not being a doctor or even an anatomy student I can't say which muscles are considered part of which system. My wife noticed my lack of butt quite a while after the fasic's started in my right calf. My hands have virtually no fasic's now but no muscle. Still fasics in thighs and bicep. Haven't noticed any in chest or abs in a while.
Hello again Al

Thanks again for replying and sorry for bothering you so much with questions . . . as I ask you a few more. :) So are you saying that you didn't have any fasciculations in your butt muscles while you were atrophying? I thought that was one of the signs . . . fasics from denervation and subsequent atrophy. Do you still have lots of muscle most places in your body . . . other than your hands?
I'm just trying to get my head around what is going on with me. :confused:
I just want to say that people can have fascilations without noticing them. When a neuro I went to examined me she pointed them out in my upper arm. When she showed me I could see the twitching, but I had never felt or noticed it before. Since then I have definitelt had fascilations I have noticed--like when a finger or 2 jumped up and down involuntarily. But I also think there have probably been many I haven't noticed cuz lots of muscles are losing mass and strenth.


My husband lifted 5 days a week and was an athlete at 55 when symptoms began.

As far as muscle atrophy that came on long after the intial symptoms. He noticed he didn't have the strength or energy at the gym. He thought he was just getting bored etc. and blew it off. We were in the process of selling our forever home and relocating so he kept busy with other more important things than gym.

He stopped working out and about the 6 month noticed the atrophy but again blamed it on not working out, and the weakness continued but on both arms, shoulders neck area.

This is how his started. He didn't even see a doctor or almost a year after onset of symptoms, again thinking it was possibly due to a fall from a ladder than he never looked into etc. Trying to find an explanation but all tests results, emg's, pointed to a motor neuron disease.

Go to the doctor and get your answers with an EMG if concerned. EMG not a pleasant test but results will certainly confirm any abnormality.
hopingforthe best:

You are describing my situation as well. I am 56 years old. I first noticed weakness while lifting weights. Ironically, if I had not been lifting weights, I would not have known about my weakness until the weakness had become very pronounced. That is, much later in time. Although, this may be the wrong decision. I have decided not to pursue further tests. I will wait until the ALS is so apparent, that the diagnosis will be self-evident. So far, everything is lining up: weakness, atrophy, fasciculations, throat and speech issues, etc., you know the routine.
To Ilgal

I have looked very, very, very closely at every inch of my arms . . . also let others look closely . . . and there are no fasciculations. I actually do it obsessively. They are not there. I just don't understand what is going on here.
To hopingforthebest

Sorry to hear about your husband's diagnosis. How is he doing . . . and how are you doing?

Another question: Did his muscles become achy upon exertion as an initial symptom or was it simply just a loss of strenght?
lower extremities

My husband Rick's ALS muscle problems began and still remains in his legs. We first noticed a difference in the size of his calves last spring when he first started wearing shorts. There has been no weakness or atrophy except that he was staggering a little on oneven ground. In the summer he was injured in a homemade cannon explosion... and is having numerous surgeries to save his right leg. This certainly puts ALS on the back burner, although he is having some more symptoms. He has an excessively runny nose in the mornings. He uses a half a box of tissues then.... and it keeps coming for about an hour. He also yawns more each morning and night, which we understand is because of shallow breathing. He uses his bipap all night and anytime he might nap during the day. We realize he can and should use it more. Rick has been able to use a walker like crutches, so his upper body has gained strength. His good leg is also shapely and stong, as it has to totally carry him. We are thankful that he can endure both of these "calamaties" and keep a great attitude. I wish you could all meet him. He is remarkable with his courage....... and NEVER complains!
TO Wright

I wanted to comment to Wright that he must remember that no matter what happens to his body, he is still the same person he always was. This disease is there, but it can't change who you are. My Rick succeeds in not ignoring the symptoms, of course, but to look elsewhere for gratification. He appreciates all the OTHER things he still has and can enjoy. He is now 60. We know that if it weren't this, it would likely be something else. Life is indeed so short. Make the most of it if you can. We know this diagnosis is tough and you are likely in the grieving stage.... but it will be dealt with as you soon accept and use that strong motivation in better modes. It will be okay... and if it isn't... determine to be okay.... go on from here. I don't know if I said anything well, so just know we care and want to help.
Marjorie - that is interesting. You say that Rick had noticable atrophy BEFORE he had any weakness. I always thought it was the other way around like some other people had posted here. That the weakness came first and the atrophy later, or at least at the same time.
I also read on another forum that the weakness is disproportionate to the amount of atrophy. In other words, even a tiny amount of atrophy can have a fairly big impact on strength. Make sense? Just another case of ALS not following a typical pattern. I swear that the more I read and learn, the more I think that ALS is a million diseases all thrown under one umbrella name.
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