The human body consists of approximately 640 muscles that are named, in addition to an innumerable amount of smaller muscles that are not. All of these muscles combined play an intricate role in the way your body moves and works, each with a different job. As with any part of your body, muscles can become weak or injured due to a variety of disorders or diseases.
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Sprains and Strains
While similar in how the injury is obtained, the difference between sprains and strains is the area of the body affected. A sprain is a stretched or torn ligament, while a strain is is a stretched or torn muscle or tendon.
Ligaments are the tissues responsible for connecting the bones at the joint, such as an ankle or wrist. Common causes of sprains include falling or twisting, and symptoms include pain, swelling and an inability to move the joint.
Tendons connect the muscle to the bone and are affected during a strain. These can occur suddenly or develop over a period of time, with the most common causes being inappropriate twisting or pulling of the muscles or tendons. Back and hamstring muscles are most commonly affected, and avid sportsmen or sportswomen are at a higher risk for these injuries. The most common symptoms include muscle spasms, difficulty moving the injured area, pain and swelling.
In both cases, treatment typically includes rest, ice, bandaging the area so it remains immobilized and pain medications that reduce swelling, such as ibuprofen. Physical therapy may later be necessary.
Myositis is an inflammation of muscle fibers -- a group of muscle diseases in which inflammation and degenerative changes occur. In simpler terms, myositis causes a swelling of your skeletal muscles, which are the muscles responsible for the voluntary movements of your body. Injury or autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, can cause this condition. In some cases, infections caused by bacteria or parasites may also be the culprit.
The most common diseases associated with myositis are dermatomyositis and polymyositis. While polymyositis results in muscle weakness in the muscles that are closest to the trunk of your body, dermatomyositis causes both muscle weakness and a skin rash. In both instances, the doctor typically treats with prednisone, a steroid.
Muscle cramps are sudden and involuntary and can happen in one or more of your muscles at once. One of the most common muscular problems, it usually occurs immediately after exercising or late at night.
A variety of causes are possible, ranging from something simplistic like overuse of a muscle to a more serious condition such as a pinched nerve in your back.
Regardless of the cause, any kind of muscle cramp tends to be very painful and can last for a few seconds to several minutes. While gently massaging the muscle may help relieve the pain momentarily, if the pain continues, you should seek the advice of your doctor.
Muscular dystrophy is not one muscular disease but a group of 30 genetic diseases that affect the muscles, causing weakness and complete loss and degeneration of the muscle. Also known as MD, this disease can appear at almost any point in a person's life, from infancy into middle-age. Eventually most patients lose the ability to walk, as all 30 forms of MD become progressively worse as the patient's muscles grow weaker.
While no cure is available, treatment includes speech and physical therapy, surgery and the use of orthopedic devices such as braces to help a patient walk. In some cases, medications are also prescribed.