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Last updated April 27, 2017, originally published November 5, 2014

By  Joseph Strongoli, Contributing Columnist

Ever feel like your legs just aren’t what they once were? That
you’ve lost a step on the trail, court, track, or worse, on the
stairs? That they give out at the most inopportune times, and
are generally weaker, less responsive and/or numb? Would
you use the words ‘weak, wobbly, and woozy’ to describe
your locomotion?

Your leg weakness  could simply be the result of aging,
where the loss of muscle mass and strength are inevitable.
Loss of muscle mass, called "sarcopenia" (Greek for "poverty
of flesh") and the loss of muscle strength, called
"dynapenia", (Greek for ‘poverty of strength’) are distinct
but related conditions typically associated with the onset of

Sarcopenia is something you need to pay attention to.
Starting at age 50, muscle mass drops by between 1 and 2%
each and every year. After age 60, the real decline starts,
with muscle mass dropping as much as 3% each year,
according to the Charité Medical School in Germany.

Having less muscle mass and muscle strength sets you up for
a series of connected adverse consequences --- you walk
less, you fall more which puts you at higher risk for hip
fractures and loss of independence.

It all starts with not taking care of your legs.

However, if you are experiencing leg weakness, don’t apply
for your Senior Citizen Card just yet.  Doctors have identified
various conditions that could lead to leg weakness, and
various solutions/treatments for jelly legs therein.   

Leg conditions are generally categorized by their root cause,
and there are various symptoms that may accompany
weakness in your legs.  Some of these such as stroke require
immediate medical attention, while others will require a
change of lifestyle.

Symptoms that May Accompany Weakness in Your Legs

There are two types of symptoms associated with weakness
in the legs: the kind that affect the leg in conjunction with leg
weakness, and the kind that affect other areas of the body in
addition to leg weakness.

Symptoms that affect the legs in conjunction with weakness
include: muscle twitching/spasms, loss of feeling/numbness,
tingling, prickling sensation, or burning feeling, redness and
swelling, and finally paralysis.

Symptoms that affect other areas of the body, in addition to
weakness of the legs, include: general malaise, body aches,
back pain, headaches, arm, hand, or finger pain, loss of
balance and coordination, and tingling or other unusual
sensations in the extremities.

To reiterate, these symptoms may or may not occur in
conjunction with leg weakness, and are indicative of a wide
array of conditions. Conditions affecting the legs are
classified under the following categories.

Neuromuscular Disease Can Make Your Legs Weak

Neuromuscular disease is a class of afflictions that affect
muscle function, by either directly affecting the muscles
themselves, or by affecting the nervous system as it controls
muscular function.

There are a variety of neuromuscular diseases that can cause
weakness or malfunction of the legs: ALS (Lou Gehrig’s
disease), Cerebral Palsy, Fibromyalgia, Guillain-Barre
Syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy,
Myasthenia Gravis, Polymyositis, and Rhabdomyolysis. Many
of these afflictions are genetic or congenital.

Spinal/Nerve Damage Can Weaken Your Legs

The spinal cord is the command highway that transmits
electric signals from the brain to the muscular system. If it’s
integrity is compromised, then so will the brain’s ability to
exercise control over its puppets, the muscles.

It’s like an electric wire short-circuiting, causing all kinds of
functions such as locomotion, muscle contraction and
relaxation, pain and tactile sensation signals, to go haywire.

Examples of spinal cord damage that affects the legs include:
traumatic injury, abscess or tumor; herniated or slipped disc;
arthritis in the spine; spondylosis, or degenerative disc
disease; spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal,
effectively pinching the nerves in the spinal cord).

These damages to the spinal cord and/or the nerves inside of
it can range from minor inconveniences to major, debilitating
conditions.  How do you know? What signs will you feel? ,
Spinal cord damage or nerve damage symptoms include
muscle fatigue/weakness, spasms, pain, burning, numbness,
tingling/prickling sensations, and partial or total paralysis.

Persistent, Chronic Conditions that Affect Your Whole Body
Environment Can Affect Your Legs

A number of chronic conditions affect body systems that
muscles, including leg muscles, rely upon to function properly.

If something goes wrong in one of these general body
systems, your legs may be the first to show the signs.

For example, if your have poor circulation, you may develop
cramps in your legs or leg weakness because of your body's
inability to circulate blood to the legs.

What breakdowns in your general body systems most affect
your legs? Such conditions include heart disease, chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic kidney disease,
anemia, diabetes, and peripheral vascular disease also known
as peripheral artery disease or PAD.

These diseases cause problems in the systems that muscle
function relies on, and thus muscle function is affected:
blood, nutrient, and oxygen supply can be restricted due to
vascular problems, heart problems, kidney problems, or lung
problems. Blood chemistry can be altered by diabetes,
chronic kidney disease,  or anemia, adversely affecting muscle

Thus muscles are susceptible to conditions that adversely
affect functions upstream from them in the mechanism of the
body, and to conditions that affect the body’s environment as
a whole. They, like anything else, are affected by poor
working conditions.

Brain Conditions That Affect Your Legs

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Green tea contains phytochemicals that
combat muscle deterioration.