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Having twitching and pain in legs. Lost some muscle tone. Difference between basic muscle wasting due to lack of activity and atrophy?

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Pain Medicine & Palliative Care Specialist
Practicing since : 1983
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When I saw my GP a week ago I complained that I was still having twitching and pain in my legs. She looked at my legs, did a strength test which was normal. My reflexes measured a 2. She looked at the muscles on my legs and stated that I had lost some muscle tone and I would benefit from more exercise (which I am trying to do). I asked if my muscles were atrophied and she said no. Could you please tell me the difference from basic muscle wasting due to lack of activity and atrophy. By the way my GP is lovely it is me who has the problems
Posted Mon, 30 Sep 2013 in Bones, Muscles and Joints
Answered by Dr. Kerry Pottinger 1 hour later
Brief Answer:
The two terms mean the same.

Detailed Answer:
Thank you for using Healthcare Magic.
Muscles always have a constant tone at rest. This is a state of continuous partial contraction of the muscle or tension of the muscle. This helps to maintain your posture and balance. Strength can be normal despite tone being reduced. A reflex measurement of 2 is normal.
Muscle atrophy is the loss of muscle bulk. This will lead to muscle weakness.
The commonest type of muscle atrophy is due to disuse of the muscles. This type of atrophy can be reversed with exercise. I think this is what your GP was describing.
To answer your question precisely, there is not a difference between basic muscle wasting and atrophy. They refer to the same condition of lack of muscle mass or bulk and will respond to the correct exercises.
My thought is that this may be benign fasciculation syndrome. This means that the muscle twitching is not caused by a serious underlying neurological condition. With this syndrome, strength is normal and there may be pain in the legs. It can sometimes be associated with anxiety. Treatment involves addressing stress and anxiety issues in the first place. Drug treatment would be considered as the next step. Often an EMG would be carried out to help with the diagnosis. This is a test that looks at the electrical activity in muscles and is normal in this condition.
I hope this is of help to you. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Dr K A Pottinger,
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Having twitching and pain in legs. Lost some muscle tone. Difference between basic muscle wasting due to lack of activity and atrophy? 6 minutes later
I had an EMG a year ago which was OK. I do got a lot of pain and crampon my legs

I am also having CBT
Answered by Dr. Kerry Pottinger 35 minutes later
Thank you for this further information.
I would consider that you are following the correct management for benign fasciculation syndrome. The important point is that more serious causes for your twitching have been ruled out.
I hope this has reassured you.
Dr K A Pottinger,
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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