However, my left leg muscles are noticeably smaller than my right leg muscles. Is this the sign of a bigger problem? How can I build up that left leg? Or do I need to get the meniscus fixed first?"
Physical Therapist Jeff Castiglione Responds:
It sounds like you did the right thing by taking a rest from running and doing other exercises to maintain strength and cardiovascular endurance.
Muscle shrinking, otherwise known as atrophy, can be the result of disuse, but it could also be a sign of more serious pathology.
Did the atrophy coincide with the period of inactivity or was it present prior to the injury? Do you have a history of back problems? Are there any other symptoms besides the atrophy?
Generally, if you are immobile for a long period of time, a muscle will have atrophy; this is a normal process. But, because it is only in the one leg and because you have remained active with exercise, I would recommend a follow-up with a physician to rule out other disease processes.
If other problems are ruled out, a follow-up with a physical therapist or trainer would be recommended to assess the atrophy and issue appropriate exercises. Your physician can provide you with a referral.
Keep in mind that differences in muscle size is generally not an issue for most people except visually, as long as there are no major strength differences between each limb.
— Jeff Castiglione, Doctor of Physical Therapy, Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist
Jeff is the manager of AthletiCare - Amherst, which provides Physical Therapy and Sports Training and Injury Prevention services in Amherst, NY.
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