Muscle atrophy


Muscle atrophy is the wasting or loss of muscle tissue.

Alternative Names

Muscle wasting; Wasting; Atrophy of the muscles


There are two types of muscle atrophy.

Examples of diseases affecting the nerves that control muscles:

Although people can adapt to muscle atrophy, even minor muscle atrophy usually causes some loss of movement or strength.


Some muscle atrophy occurs normally with aging. Other causes may include:

Home Care

An exercise program (under the direction of a therapist or doctor) is recommended to help treat muscle atrophy. This may include exercises in water to reduce the muscle workload, and other types of rehabilitation.

People who cannot actively move one or more joints can do exercises using braces or splints.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your doctor for an appointment if you have unexplained or long-term muscle loss. You can often see this when you compare one hand, arm, or leg to the other.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

The health care provider will perform a physical examination and ask questions about your medical history and symptoms, including:

The doctor will look at your arms and legs and measure muscle size to try to determine which nerve or nerves are affected.

Tests that may be performed include:

Treatment may include physical therapy, ultrasound therapy and, in some cases, surgery to correct a contracture.


Chinnery PF. Muscle Diseases. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011: chap 429.

Review Date: 2/5/2012
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA, and Department of Anatomy at UCSF, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.