Not open for further replies.


Mar 24, 2008
Learn about ALS
Hello everyone. I have been on here for some time and just joined today with a few questions. I hope someone can relieve my fears.

I'm a 42 year old male. In very good health. About 3 months ago I had some weakness in my right arm (no pain, just some mild weakness).
This concerned me so I went to my GP and he ordered blood work (all clean) and an MRI (that was fine too).
He sent me to a neurologist (this was two weeks later) and he did an EMG on just my right arm (it was clean). He thought it was some nerve damage from a virus or something and told me that I was going to be fine.
Shortly after that I noticed my muscles shrinking in my arm (again, I had no pain). I measured them as this was happening. I have a friend who is a neurologist in another town, so I called him and went to see him after this happened. He pointed out that my shoulder muscle was smaller (deltoid is what he called it), my bicep muscle and another one in my forearm that I can't spell (brackioradius or something like that). All I knew was that my arm was shrinking and shrinking fast. I lost nearly 3/4 inch off my upper arm, about 3/4 inch off of my forearm and I have no idea how much I lost off of my deltoid (I don't know how to measure it). They just melted away in front of my eyes. This all happened in about six weeks.
He wanted to wait another month or so to do an EMG (so about 2 months after I noticed the shrinking muscles). This EMG was in 3 of my limbs (right arm, left arm and right leg) and took about 2 hours. All he found was acute denervation in my right deltoid. He said this was good news for a few reasons.

One: the muscle shrinking happened too fast and in too many muscles at the same time to be ALS.
Two: there would have been chronic denveration and acute denervation in a shrinking muscle if it was ALS.
Three: nothing has changed in the last two months. The muscles shrank and then stopped shrinking.
Four: all of my reflexes are normal.

He thinks that it was some virus or autoimmune problem that ate my nerves and caused my muscles to shrink and sometimes they only eat motor nerves.

What my fear is, is that he wants to do another EMG in a few months just to make sure there are no other problems. That is what concerns me. If he is so sure it isn't ALS, why would he want to do another EMG? He is my friend and I'm thinking he doesn't want to worry me.

I know there are a lot of smart people on here. Is what he told me consistent in what everyone has heard. Did the shrinking happen too fast and in too muscles to be ALS? And is the only way you are going to get muscle shrinking with ALS, through chronic and acute denervation?

Thank you everyone for taking the time to help me.
No one?

Doesn't anyone have any insight into my questions? . . . ZenArcher . . . Wright . . . Hopingforcure . . . Al . . . anyone? :confused:
HI sorry I took so long to resond.
First welcome to the board, I really see some favorable info from your post. The emg did not point to als, and your reflexes, point far away from als. Do not worry that you a repeat emg may happen, that is just to make sure things remain intact.
Weakness and atrophy would be more worriesome. You cant believe all the things that could cause your symptoms, a page full. Ask any questions, we are here for you..Hoping
Hi Hardy. I'd have to agree with your friend. Atrophy was way too fast for ALS. I think he's just playing it safe with another EMG. Your weakness doesn't sound typical either. I'd bet on a virus too.
Thank you so much for responding, Hopingforcure and Al.

Hopingforcure: you said that atrophy and weakness would be worrisome . . . I have weakness and atrophy. That is exactly what is worrying me. I know that Al said the atrophy happened too fast, but I also keep reading that ALS progresses so rapidly. What is meant by "progresses rapidly" when that is stated?
And about my EMG: by the time you have atrophy with ALS, would chronic denervation had to have taken place for that to happen?
One last thing: does the fact that my deltoid, bicep and brachioradius muscles all atrophied at the same time and at the same rate, also point away from ALS? Is that just too many muscles at once?
Thanks again.
You need to look up Monomelic Amyotrophy. It happens in males, affects one limb, usually arm, happens quickly and generally doesnt spread anywhere. It is a form of motor neuron disease but isnt fatal and generally isnt disabling. Best of luck. Gina
Hey Hardy42

Sorry I didn't respond to you earlier . . . although hopingforcure and Al are pretty smart people, so you were in good hands.

It doesn't sound like monomelic amyotrophy, because that actually happens slowly. You sound like you got hit hard and fast, as if a peripheral nerve was damaged, eaten, etc. Your story actually sounds a bit like mine. I lost quite a bit of muscle quickly like yourself. You might have something called Parsonage-Turner syndrome . . . aka . . . neuralgic amyotrophy . . . aka . . . brachial neuritis. If you google it, it will tell you that it always starts with excruciating pain, but there was a study done at John's Hopkins recently that indicated that nearly half of the cases are painless. They don't exactly know what causes it (maybe a virus . . . maybe autoimmune), but it "eats" your peripheral nerves and causes weakness and atrophy (atrophy can happen very fast). It is not fatal and all you have to do is wait to get better. There is no treatment for it. That would be my guess over the internet.

As far as why it's not ALS:
Happened too quickly (unless you were unaware of your body prior to noticing weakness and atrophy).
Happened in too many muscles at one time. ALS typically affects one muscle and then marches to the next one.
Clean EMG with muscle atrophy doesn't fit with ALS.

Hopingforcure and Al: do you agree on those 3 points?
I agee with you Wright, your points were completely on target. The atrophy and weakness were just not als acting. I know this is probably a scary time, but it sure seems like we are in agreement that this sounds like something else. I think for sure the things you and Gina mentioned have to be looked into further.
Sounds almost viral. Hoping
Oh and yes the emg would have shown a change, the muscles that were intact would have been working extra hard to create amptitude, as well as the health of the muscle and nerves alike.
Thanks again for all of your replies

I have another question.

I've seen a post by ZenArcher, Al, Wright, Hopingforcure that addressed muscle atrophy and ALS: 1/2 inch loss of muscle in a month, or 3/4 inch loss of muscle in 6 weeks (me) or 1 inch loss of muscle in 2 months is just too fast to be ALS. Where did everyone read that or do you simply know from experience?
Mostly experience. Talking to people here and support group and 4 years of ALS Clinic for me.
Reseraching, others, and a bunc of questions and study. That does not sound like als atrophy, to me at least.. hoping
Last Questions

I can't thank you all enough for your time. You all inspire me.

Last questions and then I will relax.

What would be a normal amount of atrophy when it comes to ALS?

Does the fact that so many of my muscles . . . that is . . . deltoid . . . bicep . . . brachioradialis (I found out how to spell it) . . . all atrophied at the exact same time, also point away from ALS?

Does weakness happen before atrophy . . . and if so . . . how long after weakness does atrophy happen.

Thank you once again.
Hi Hardy,
I just wanted to add my own opinion here to give you more input. I agree with AL and the others about this probably being some type of auto immune or viral thing.
ALS manifests itself in different ways in different people, but generally follows a pattern that is not like what you are describing.

I think your friend wants a follow up EMG to verify that it has stopped spreading. It takes times for this to show up and be verified. Also if a later EMG shows changes it may point them in another direction of what to consider, depending on the change. I would not be afraid of ALS at this point. It just does not fit your symptoms.
Thanks again everyone

You have all calmed me immensely. I think I will be completely calm once I get that next EMG and it doesn't show anything.

So to calm myself a little more:

Did too many of my muscles atrophy at the exact same time to be ALS (again: deltoid, bicep, brachioradialis)?
Not open for further replies.