Muscle atrophy is also medically known as muscle wasting. It is associated with decreased total skeletal and muscle mass of the body. Depending upon the cause of muscle atrophy, it is classified into two main types: Disuse atrophy which is caused due to lack of physical movements and neurogenic atrophy which occurs due to changes or disorder of nervous system.
Disuse muscle atrophy is more common in occurrence than neurogenic atrophy. It is generally seen in people who stick to sedentary life style and lack physical activities in their daily schedule leading to muscle wasting and muscle loss. Also, people who are weak or bedridden find it difficult to get out of bed and lack exercises; they often suffer from this atrophy.
Neurogenic atrophy is less commonly seen as compared to disuse atrophy and affects less percentage of people. It is mainly associated with trauma to nervous system or any related injuries or may be due to nervous system disorders or diseases. Disorders such as multiple sclerosis, Guillain-Barre syndrome etc. is commonly seen nervous systems disorders and is often irreversible in nature. Conditions affecting nervous systems could be due to a nerve compression by herniated disc, or thrombus, or plaque that could lead to neural changes. Also, Carpel tunnel syndrome is one of the common causes of nerve compression causing muscular atrophy. Other causes for muscle wasting are burns, Rheumatoid arthritis, malnutrition, chronic use of corticosteroids, etc.
Can Muscle Atrophy be Reversed?
Muscle atrophy can be a serious condition if not taken care on time. The major question here is whether or not muscle atrophy can be reversed. Yes, it can be reversed. However, the amount of reversal depends on the cause of muscle atrophy and the extent of muscle wastage or loss that has happened. With proper exercise, diet and nutrition, muscle atrophy can be reversed to a great extent if the treatment is taken on current time. Muscle atrophy due to lack of physical activity and disuse of muscle can be reversed. Treating the neural disorders can also help in reversing the atrophy and recovering the condition. Muscle atrophy can be reversed by maintaining a good healthy diet and following a regular exercise program.
Symptoms of Muscle Atrophy
People suffering with muscle atrophy generally presents with following symptoms:
- Weakness in muscle and difficulty in lifting regular objects
- Lack of strength to perform regular basic exercises and walking
- Development of abnormal body posture due to muscle wasting
- Difficulty in standing straight for long duration, coordination and body balance
- Loss of memory
- Dysphagia (trouble in swallowing/painful swallowing) and trouble in speaking due to impaired facial muscles and weakness
- Weak cardiac muscles can lead to heart attacks
- Pain in the affected limbs
- Prone to frequent falls and bone injury
- Loss of skeletal bone density.
Recovery of Muscle Atrophy
Atrophy is managed by primarily focusing on improving and strengthening the weak muscles and by treating the associated pain in the affected limbs.Atrophy of the un-used muscles can be reversed by physical exercise; however, the change in dietary routine also has an impact in improving the condition.
Following is the essential diet components to recover the muscle atrophy.
- Proteins: A protein rich diet is a key for curing the muscle weakness as it improves the quality of the muscle by generating new muscle fibers. The daily recommended regimen for women is approx. 46grams and 56 grams for men. It should be 0.8 grams per kilogram of the body weight. It is advisable to include food such as fish, eggs, cheese, leafy greens, beans, yogurt, dairy rich products, nuts, etc. in the diet to supplement proteins.
- Carbohydrates are a major part of the daily balanced diet. It provides energy to the newly generating muscle fibers. To improve the calorie intake of the body, one must include carbohydrate rich food such as milk, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, etc. in the diet.
- 40-65% of daily calorie intake is mandatory to generate energy.
- Omega 3 fatty acids helps in catabolic activity of the muscle cells, thus improving the inflammatory conditions and enhancing the healing process of the body. It is advisable to take approx. 2grams of omega 3 fatty acids regularly by diet such as salmon, soybeans, flax seeds, walnut, sprouts, cauliflower, etc.
Exercise for Muscle Atrophy
It is advisable to progress gradually while initiating the exercise programs as the muscles take time to redevelop. Also, it is advisable to consult your physician before starting the physical workouts and plan the activity accordingly.
- One should begin with the basic exercises such as slow walking, knee lifts etc. to improve the blood circulation and strengthen the damaged muscles.
- Pool exercise is one of the most common start-up workout for beginners, where the person goes inside the pool and performs the work out. This helps in giving the appropriate and required amount of resistance to the muscles, without applying pressure on the bones.10-min walk inside the pool is good to start with.
- After several days, one can add minor paddling to the work out for involving more muscles such as core muscles etc. of the body.
- This is followed by next step of exercise to improve the range of motion of the joints without using the external resistance. For e.g., sitting on chair and extending your legs in forward direction to activate the atrophied muscle is helpful. This simple exercise can be practiced multiple times in a day and will enhance the blood flow to the atrophied muscles.
- Practicing stretching exercise after every work out is beneficial. A 30-minute separate stretching session for at least 2-3 times a week is also effective.
- Next step is to start the exercise with weights or resistance tubes to improve the catabolic and anabolic activities of muscles. For example, extending legs with resistance or weight is helpful.
- One can slowly add more weights with dumbbells or barbells as per comfort and perform heavier exercises.
- Use of machine weights, squats, sit-ups, lunges, basic abs crunches etc. is advisable. Try performing 9-10 reps of each exercise type.
- If the atrophy was due to some muscle trauma, or injury, it is recommended to work out with the help of trainers or consult a physiotherapist for appropriate exercise plan. Strength training is one of the most beneficial forms of work out. It involves all the muscles of the body with high strength to perform the exercises.
- Old aged people need the strength training to build up the muscle mass and bone density. Apart from this, the training also helps in curing the chronic diseases such as coronary artery disease, arthritis, obesity, osteoporosis, etc.
It is advisable to perform the exercise regularly for a minimum of 30 minute, along with the healthy diet to improve the atrophied muscle status and regain the lost muscle strength of the body.
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