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Are you Suffering from Muscle Atrophy?

Updated on November 18, 2015

Muscle Atrophy

Diagram of an Atrophied Bicep Muscle

What is Atrophy?

Unless your life is cut short from some unforeseen circumstances, every human being on the planet will experience it at some point in time. Whether your body becomes incapacitated from some type of accident or illness, or you just grow old and unable to stay active. Your muscles will begin to waste away so to speak, commonly referred to as muscle atrophy. In order to stay in good physical shape and on top of your game, you have to workout or perform some sort of physical activity consistently and eat healthy, no matter how old you are. In fact, the older you are, makes you even more susceptible. Developing lean muscle can be difficult, but actually keeping that muscle and maintaining it is even more challenging. When you suddenly stop exercising, you will begin to notice your muscles getting smaller or not looking as hard and strong. Since the ability to apply force is directly related to mass, when your muscles partially or completely shrink, so does your strength. Why does this happen to everyone? It's called muscle atrophy, your muscles actually begin to waste away and you lose a lot of strength and power (this will vary for each individual) when you do not use them on a regular basis.


Muscle Atrophy after being Immobile/Wearing a cast

Types of Muscle Atrophy

There are two different classifications of muscle atrophy. The most common type is simply disuse atrophy. If you have a job that requires you to sit down for 8 hours or more at a time, such as a secretary or work in some type of telemarketing center, then your body is already accustomed to being in a couch potato status and not acclimated to frequent physical activity. If you have a some type physical affliction or had an accident/injury that keeps you bedridden and prevents you from routinely exercising and puts limits your mobility, such as rheumatoid arthritis, this sort of inactivity will more then likely result in your muscles beginning to waste away and develop into disuse muscle atrophy. This form of atrophy is easily reversed, however a lot of people are stubborn and simply do not change their lifestyle. Many people don't realize that our heart is not only an organ but it's also a muscle that needs to exercised on a daily basis and remain healthy along with the rest of our body/muscles. the second form, Neurogenic atrophy is the more serious type of the two and occurs a lot quicker then disuse. Neurogenic atrophy takes place a lot less frequent than then it's counterpart. Neurogenic atrophy is caused by a nerve problem or disorder. It's a disease or injury to a nerve such as Polio or Multiple Sclerosis. Malnutrition and some other severe injuries to the body can also cause and perpetuate the loss of muscle.

Effects of Muscle Atrophy

Signs and symptoms of Muscle atrophy

Are you suffering from any of the following symptoms?

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Causes of Atrophy

Atrophy will start to set in when the cells in your body begin to die and for whatever reason (for instance if you were bedridden) the body does not have the ability to or able to replace them (a physical therapist could assist in preventing progression of muscle atrophy). This causes the tissue to start the process of shrinking and lose it's ability to be able to function normally. It can occur all over the body, not just in certain areas, but it most often it initiates in the muscles. The symptoms of atrophy are distinct and easy to see. Loose, flabby muscles is a tell, tale sign. The Neurogenic form is not so easily distinguished. If you are unfortunate to have to suffer through being burned, injured, or immobile, this will most certainly cause you to lose your muscle. Diseases such as Osteoarthritis, Muscular Dystrophy, and Lou Gehrig's Disease will also cause your muscles to shrink or waste away. Malnutrition and some other injuries to the body can cause and perpetuate muscle atrophy. In some cases, the muscle atrophy can progressively get worse until it becomes irreversible.

Muscle Atrophy of Inactive Muscles

Symptoms and Treatment of Atrophy

As stated previously, the symptoms are not difficult to see on your self personally or on someone else. Neurogenic muscle atrophy symptoms are a little harder to spot. Some of the symptoms include back pain, walking problems, limited range of neck motion and sometimes even heart failure. Let's not forget the heart is a muscle too and needs to be exercised on a daily basis. Dependent upon the atrophy type that you have, the treatments will vary considerably between the two. Some of the treatments will require medications such as corticosteroids for the inflammation of the affected nerves. Mature women who have already gone through the menopause stages are more susceptible to muscle shrinkage due to their depleted estrogen levels and their body basically has no need to maintain the reproductive system any longer due to it shutting down. This is one of the major reasons that when women start to get a little older, their body 's will require more protein intake. Unless you have some underlying health condition/ a disease that is debilitating, the best treatment is to get up off your butt and exercise as much as you possibly can.

Example of an Atrophied Leg Muscle

Muscle Atrophy explained by Dr. Jaylmt, www.chiromassagefl.com

More Treatment for Muscle Atrophy

Any kind of exercise program will easily alleviate the muscle shrinking and treat muscle atrophy if it's due to the lack of use and not to a more serious health condition. If the problem is of the more critical variety, then it may require some prescription medications or even a surgical procedure. Age is one of the main precursors of atrophy. Older people are more susceptible and should always try to keep an active lifestyle. Staying active will not only assist elders in staying self sufficient, it will also combat the degenerative aging process. If you feel that you continue to lose your muscle and it seems to have progressively get worse, you should contact a health care professional and have yourself evaluated. If the cause is a more serious health matter, tests may need to be run to determine the root cause of the problem.

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    • Indian Chef profile image

      Indian Chef 2 years ago from New Delhi India

      Very well researched hub Alphadogg. Loved reading it. Muscle atrophy is something no one can escape one age start catching up with you. Best to delay is exercise more.

    • Marie Flint profile image

      Marie Flint 3 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      You and I are worlds apart. I view the body as a vehicle for the soul. The form will always fit the function. I do admire the bodies of dancers and figure skaters, however. With a makeup of predominantly air in my natal chart of the zodiac, it's a wonder at times that I even have a physical body.

      My daughter, though, wants to reduce her body fat to about 14%, and I have shared a link to your profile on her Facebook page. She will love your articles.

      Let me know if you need any help with my editing suggestions, and keep writing. --Blessings!