I have had a 75% decrease in size of my left calf muscle as compared to the right over the last year or so, and it's now to the point that it's affecting my gait. I had an MRI last month which showed no trace of the previously untreated herniated disc at L4 I had 16 years ago, and was basically negative. I am scheduled to see a neurologist soon for an EMG, but wondered what other causes the atrophy could be due to, since I was convinced that my lower back situation was all to blame. I'm 51 years old, male, and unrestricted in my activities.

I do have a slightly progressive limp, starting about 6 months ago, with feelings of numbness in my foot which has been there all along since I first injured my back in 1994. It's just that the medial head of the gastrocnemius is no longer there, and thus causes the limp. I also can not raise myself on my toes using the left foot like I'm able to do with the right. I'm mostly worried about how bad it will progress from here, and would like to be able to gain this muscle back.Any insight would be helpful and appreciated.
Thanks,
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First Helper jack2044
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replied May 4th, 2011
Especially eHealthy
jack2044,

It could still be your back. The nerve root that was compressed by the herniated disc, could have been damaged to the point that it never recovered.

However, the electrical studies which you are going to have should be able to determine the cause. It is probably best to wait till you have all the information before trying to figure out what is going on.

Good luck.
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replied August 30th, 2011
i am 39 years old and have the same problem,please could u let me know how u get on as i have not yet done anything about it .i think the thought of surgery frightens me.
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replied February 21st, 2012
Limping, my left calf is shrinking
I am 39 and had a partial discectomy on my L1S5 10 years ago. Slowly my calf muscle in my left leg has atrophied. It is now one inch smaller than the other . Over the years I have seem physiotherapists, massage therapists, the people that stick 4 inch long needles into e muscles, mri s, the whole gamut. Nothing has helped, my limp has gotten progressively worse so that now even strangers ask me if I've hurt myself...sigh...anyone had this problem and found help? Is it reversible? I used to be so graceful, now I just lumber along, no way I can even stand on my tiptoe Sad
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replied April 2nd, 2013
Had ruptured disc L5, S1 in 1981. Atrophy started in 1991. Now have 25% calf muscle remaining. 2 neurosurgeons said not reversible. Still, I stretched and exercised my calf. Down side now is that I have several painful spasms day and night. Doc has me on 400mg of magnesium daily. No help as of today. Neuro doc told me that nerve that innervates calf and maintains muscle tone was perm damaged, therefore, atrophy. Sorry about ur gait. My left foot sort of is lazy and flaps along. All the best.
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replied February 23rd, 2012
i know how u feel i cant wear high heels any more ,sometimes feel like an old person in sensible footwear.i have tried exercising ,bike etc but i dont know if it will hope it.i too can not stand on my tiptoes left foot
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replied June 21st, 2013
Leg atrophy and weakness
I'm scared too. Mine started with a noticeable " floppy" lateral thigh muscle. I kept thinking something was wrong with my knee. Now my foot is numb and sometimes tingles. Even my hip feels like it needs support when I walk. This has all occurred in the last month. MRI hasn't been approved yet. Yes I have a limp. Am I going to be permanently disabled? I am very active and THIS WILL kill me! Help!
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replied July 10th, 2013
Hypertrophy of atrophied calf
I am 63 year old male that has had a severely atrophied left calf muscle since my early 20s. Years ago I made uneducated attempts at restoring the calf to no avail. Recently I have begun a weight training program for overall strength and appearance. I educated myself on muscle anatomy (the internet wasn't there when I tried before). I have had good results so I studied the muscles of the calf. There are three main ones: the soleus, the lateral and medial heads of the gastrocnemius. I started doing 50 toe raises both seated and standing using dumbbells. This addresses all 3 muscles. I have been doing this one month now and have visible success. Only exercise the atrophied leg. I use 80# dumbbells for both the seated and standing toe raises. I am amazed. Hope you will be too!
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Users who thank PapaJoe for this post: tallyhoho 

replied February 8th, 2014
Hi Papa Joe, I was very interested in your article of calf atrophy. I am pretty good health but I noticed several months ago I could not reach for something and I could not get on my tip toes because of calf atrophy. I have recently gone to a neurologist and had an MRI and was told I have some compressions on some the disc. However I am now going to PT and using some exercise to strengthen the back. Now, when I read your article I was impressed of your excercise program. How do you do the seating and toe raises and if you can instruct me via email? Thank you
Tracy
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replied July 19th, 2013
Hi people, this all sounds very familiar. When I was 20 I began to limp as a result of a dropped foot and was fitted with a leg brace to mitigate it. A subsequent MRI scan showed a cyst embedded deep in my spine that was causing nerve damage. Over a period of about eight months my right calf and butt muscle atrophied alarmingly. The operation to remove the cyst seemed to do even more nerve damage. For the past 18 years I've been left with a right leg that looks more like a six-iron, a pronounced limp and a lump of plastic in my shoe that compresses my toes and made more uncomfortable by the stretch bandaged required to stop the strap rubbing against my skin. I've been through all kinds of therapies and physio work in the past, but the fact is the signal from the brain to the foot is no longer there, or has lain dormant so long it refuses to switch on. Glad to hear Papajoe you've found some success in redeveloping the muscle. Personally, I have long since given up trying and work out twice a week in the gym just to maintain the healthy muscles I've got. It can be tough adjusting to it, not only not being able to do what you previously took for granted, but also the basic aesthetics - I haven't worn shorts since I was 19 and have never had a beach holiday since. But that's basic vanity and self-consciousness that slowly dissipates with age. Really, there's so much to bloody do in this life so don't let it get in any of your way too much.
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replied February 23rd, 2014
Hi, I have significant muscle wasting in the upper inner muscle of the left leg. The lower inner muscle on the same leg has grown to compensate. I am an active swimmer and cyclist on 64 years old. A recent MRI showed abnormal muscle tissue that the radiologist suggested might have been at result of injury however i cannot recall any significant trauma,
I am unsure what specialist is appropriate to consult. My knees need replacing and I wonder if this might be the cause. I will give the pappajoe programme a go and see if it has the same result
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replied July 24th, 2014
This is obviously a common problem. I, too, have atrophy in one calf and nerve damage as the result of lumbo-sacral spine problems. I had a fusion at L5-S1 more than a dozen years ago, and another at L4-L5 about two years ago. I also had two other surgeries in the area because of infections. Prior to the second fusion, I was in intense pain involving my low back and both legs. Fortunately, the surgery resolved the pain but left me with a weak right calf and foot. Further surgery is out of the question (my doctors didn't want to do the last one) because of the amount of scar tissue that involves nerved and blood vessels, but the nerve damage is probably irreversible, anyway. I can dorsiflex the foot as well as the left one, but cannot raise my body weight even slightly. My biggest problem is that the ankle gives way easily, which has caused several falls, one of which recently resulted in serious injuries. I have tries various exercises, none of which has helped to build strength. I may resume them, though, because they may at least prevent further weakening, which seems to be happening. Fortunately, I have retained sufficient strength to operate the pedals of my car. I also will look into a foot brace because my last fall was a wake-up call.
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replied July 29th, 2014
I'm 53 years old. My right calf atrophied in 2006. It didn't affect my gait or my ability to exercise etc. Then I had back surgery in 2010 to repair my L3/4, L4/5. Still have occasional numbness in left foot but overall it seemed to fix the pain. However, two years later in 2012 my left calf muscle began to atrophy. They did MRI's of my entire spine, x-rays, every possible blood test, and even a spinal tap and found nothing. I was diagnosed with multifocal motor neuropathy. I can no longer stand on my left toes and my gait is now affected. I can still raise up on my right toes surprisingly enough.

Many of the posts above sound EXACTLY what I have. I'm wondering if back surgery does more harm than good, even when it fixes the immediate problem of pain and nerve compression.
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replied October 15th, 2016
HI there,i am 40 years old,my problem occurs 2 years ago where i feel a very sharp pain in both of my leg which put me in 8 days off sick from work. I been visiting the doctors for couple of times where doctors dome some mild electrocution, MRI scan biopsy. Muscular myopathy was initial diagnosis, but then ruled out. My balancing is also not good.i am waiting again for another visit to neurologist. Any idea what caused this condition will be very much appreciated


Thank you

Gilbert
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replied November 3rd, 2016
I am 39 years old... When I was 4 years old I got a vaccine which spikes a high fever of 105. The next day when i woke up my leg was jello. I had to go to rehab just to learn to walk again. The doctors at that time could not tell me what exactly happened. But my left leg has basically no calf muscle and I have been walking with a limp ever since. Massive amounts of orthotics because my gate is messed up. I mostly walk on my heel. I did see a neurologist in my 20s to try and see if it could be fix. They told me that there is a nerve in my spine that is damaged that sends the signal to my calf muscle. Isn't there anyway to regenerate that nerve in my spine??? With all the technology out there... Some days my heal hurts so bad I almost would rather have a fake foot... At least I wouldn't have to deal with the pain... I truly think it bothers other people more than it bothers me... Wish there was SOME way to fix it.
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replied May 4th, 2017
I am 61 years old. About 8 or 9 years ago, I began getting extremely restless legs in bed. I couldn't stop flexing my leg muscles every 30 seconds just so I could get a few moments relief as the muscles then relaxed briefly. After a couple of years of this, I started noticing my right calf muscle was shrinking in size. Along with this I was experiencing increasing levels of pain in my legs. They felt like they were swollen or sunburnt a lot of the time. This coincided with me starting on Statins medication for cholesterol. Initial visits to GPs raised eyebrows but no diagnoses. Eventually, after my level of pain killer intake increased, I was referred to physios and specialists for a series of tests including nerve conduction tests, MRIs, X-Rays, ultrasounds, multiple blood tests etc. MRIs have revealed that the calf muscle has atrophied and been replaced with fatty tissue. My left calf muscle is on the same trajectory now. Currently my neurologist suspects one of two explanations. The first is that I have some immune system deficency which is quite likely as I caught an infection in hospital 5 years ago during a triple bypass surgery. I am told if so, this is treatable. The second suspect is a possible genetic disorder. I am booked in to have a biopsy in order to find some answers which so far have eluded me. I also walk with a limp now. Stopping the Statins definitely helped reduce the pain levels and I now take Rapatha which is an injectable cholesterol drug and it works brilliantly with no side effects at all. Meanwhile, 12 months ago I ruptured the disc between the L4 and L5 discs. My neurosurgeon won't deal with that until I get some answers about my legs so I live with pain all the time. I take 2 panadol a day (at night) and never more than 2 Panadeine a week or more usually a fortnight when my back pain reaches chronic levels. My GP is worried that I am taking too many pain killers and is referring me to a pain specialist.....oh please!
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replied May 24th, 2017
Hi Everyone,
Could I get some advice? I am 39 years old, my right calf muscle started wasting 4 yrs ago but just became readily apparent over the last year. A ortho ankle specialist looked at my calf MRI and said that my Right Medial Gastro is basically gone. I have a limp and trouble pushing off my right foot when walking. I had back pain in 2010 but my GP just sent my to physio and the problem seemingly stopped after a week or so. There was never any numbness or anything. Whatever the pain was its never come up again. I do get slight sciatica pain if I sit on something too soft for too long( the pain does not include shooting pains in my leg or anything just really stiff and for a few days.) . My question is should i set up a appointment with a neurologist or a neuro-surgeon?
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replied October 24th, 2017
29yo male same symptoms in left leg
I am a somewhat active 29 yo with this problem following back surgery/injury. And it is affecting my gait and ability to walk places faster than 4km/hour. I am asking if there some orthesis that will help with a dorsiflex in my left leg gastronemicus muscle?

Walking feels like it's destroying my left knee and painful in my hip due to abnormal, not to mention the social implications of not being able to move around properly.

This may sound strange but I've started to 'hate' my left leg and had dreams about cutting it off, because it's just a 'dead uncontrolled' piece of meat slowing me down. I know that's crazy, but it shows the emotional distress I am experiencing.

No pain thankfully. Even though I long back for the time when I had pain and more control of my leg, because now there is just claudation and numbness, which came after the pain.

Neurologist says S1/L5 are almost completely cut off, but damage has already been done. No pain = No surgery, which I understand.
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replied November 13th, 2017
30yo male/motorcycle accident/t12-l5/left gastrocnemius 'gone''!
30yo male. had motorbike accident at 28 which shattered (into many many many pieces - 20kg of metal tools landed on my back after an 80mph impact) T12-L5.

At the time of the accident I lost the use of my lower left side effectively - left lower back, left glute, left thigh and left calf. I also lost feeling in both thighs an my left calf. I have 4 titanium rods and 24 pedicle screws holding a fusion together and, over the last two years I've managed to regain use of my lower back, glute, some of my thigh and some of my calf.

Immediately after the accident I was unable to do any physio and sent two weeks essentially in the fetal position on my back on a folding bed. I went home after two weeks and used a wheelchair to go everywhere.

After a while I upgraded to crutches or a walker but I noticed my thigh and calf were noticeably atrophied as compared to the right leg.

Lots of time later I've done my own physio, had positive checkups with my surgeon, and 6 months ago I started cycling. Now - I'm not healthy; I smoke, I drink from time to time, I eat crap - I found that once I'd set up the bike my back didn't hurt and after 6 months I can happily ride a half century (50 miles) in around 5 hours with stops for food/drink/smoke etc.

I've not gained muscle mass back (and the atrophy is more noticeable now that the other leg is gaining mass) but my other muscles compensate for the 'lost'calf muscles;I still can't 'tip-toe' on that leg, and I can't stand on the pedals whist cycling, but it no longer hurts to walk (no more grinding knee), I no longer walk with a limp and I stand up straighter.

I've also not had the 'fireworks' up and down my leg (which I had nightly), cramps, spasms, burning or itching since about 2 weeks after I started cycling - which is one reason I'm not going to stop (I still smoke and drink and eat crap Razz )

At my latest check up, my surgeon said he was 'astounded' by my determinism (I'd built a sidecar outfit from my wheelchair and then modified another solo motorbike to hand shift to get back on a solo bike after 101 days, then had the bike I wrote off in the accident back on the road 51 weeks after the accident. Unfortunately he also said that the nerve would probably never regenerate farther than it has this far - he said that around 18 months after the surgery would be the 'end' of my recovery. This is the same guy who told me I might never walk again Razz

I'd suggest finding an activity that doesn't over-exert the muscles that are still working, but will tone them and strengthen them, whilst also training them to overcome the 'missing' muscles. If you take up cycling, toe-straps or clips help but I've fallen at traffic lights a couple of times - I'm getting better at my track-standing though!

Regular stretching and excercising

Walking/hiking etc worked well for me too, with plenty of breaks but I've been of the mindset that I won't let this stop me living the life I had before and I'd rather spend more time preparing my body now for raising my son (he's two - my missus told me she was pregnant on my 2nd day in hospital!

I hope you look back at this. It'll take time... Time to find the right method that works for you, and then time to work at it, but you can get back to doing the things you love without excessive pain.

All the best.
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replied December 26th, 2017
Hey everyone,

I hope that all of you have had atleast some success with their issues since their posts and it's been quite comforting knowing I'm not the only one struggling with muscle atrophy.

I am a 22 year old, who is just noticing atrophy in my calf muscle, my forearm and and my left trapeze. About a year ago I noticed atrophy in my left hand and thought it was ulnar nerve entrapment or disorder but now I think the problem must be in the left side of my neck. A month before I first noticed the atrophy in my hand, there was a 3 day period where I couldn't move the left side of my neck, my head was tilted to the left and it was extremely painful to move it, however, it got better and I just thought I'd slept awkwardly on it.

Could anyone please tell me if this sounds like a slipped disk in my neck or if it sounds like anything that could have caused nerve damage in my neck? I have had an MRI and nothing unusual came up for my central nervous system and I am due to have nerve conduction tests in January, would a slipped disc of appeared in my MRI results?

Finally, how long did it take for the calf muscle or any muscle to atrophy to the point where it was definitely noticeable?

If anyone could answer any of these questions, I'd be very grateful. Thanks for your time Smile
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