Muscle atrophy refers to the loss of muscle tissue. Essentially, it happens because of an imbalance between protein synthesis and protein degradation. This can be caused by various factors, although among the most common are inactivity and poor nutrition. Getting regular exercise and eating a balanced diet are effective methods of preventing muscle atrophy, especially if you work a sedentary job.
If you are experiencing one of the following symptoms, you may be experiencing muscle atrophy:
- One arm or leg is smaller than the other
- You’re experiencing marked weakness or loss of movement in one limb
- You’ve been physically inactive for a very long time
While muscle atrophy is a serious medical condition, it can be prevented or reversed in most cases. Continue reading this guide to learn what causes muscle atrophy, who’s at risk, and how it can be treated.
Types of Muscle Atrophy
The causes and treatments of muscle atrophy widely vary based on the type of muscle atrophy you’re experiencing. Potential causes of muscle atrophy can include:
- Lack of physical activity for an extended period (leading to muscle loss)
- Alcohol-associated myopathy, pain, and weakness in muscles due to excessive drinking over long periods
- Central nervous system damage
- Motor neuron diseases (Such as scoliosis)
- Injuries, such as a torn rotator cuff or broken bones
- Spinal cord injury
- Peripheral nerve injuries
- Long-term corticosteroid therapy
Muscle atrophy can be divided into three main categories, each with a unique set of causes and treatment methodology.
Physiologic atrophy occurs when the muscles are not used enough. While physiologic atrophy can be severe, it can often be reversed with regular exercise and improved nutrition.
You may be at greater risk of physiologic atrophy if:
- Have a seated jobs
- Have a health problem that limits movement
- Are bedridden
- Cannot move your limbs because of stroke or other brain diseases
- Are in a place that lacks gravity, such as during space flights
Daily exercise is a good starting place to prevent medical conditions associated with a sedentary lifestyle, such as physiologic atrophy. Consider the Ski-Row Air or Ski-Row Air + PWR machines by EnergyFit. In addition to providing both cardiovascular and full-body resistance training, EnergyFit machines are low-impact, meaning they put little stress on the bones and joints.
Pathologic atrophy usually occurs as a result of aging or starving. Certain diseases, such as Cushing’s disease, can cause pathologic atrophy. Proper nutrition and regular exercise can both prevent and treat pathologic atrophy.
When your glycogen stores have been depleted, your body will extract energy by breaking down muscle tissue. This is why eating a balanced diet of complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats is essential.
Neurogenic atrophy is not only the most severe type of muscle atrophy but also the most difficult to treat. This is because neurogenic atrophy occurs due to injury or disease within the nerves that connect to muscle tissue. Such diseases include:
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, affects nerve cells that control voluntary muscle movement
- Dermatomyositis causes muscle weakness and skin rash
- Guillain-Barré syndrome, an autoimmune condition that leads to nerve inflammation and muscle weakness
- Multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune condition in which the body destroys the protective coverings of nerves
- Muscular dystrophy, an inherited condition that causes muscle weakness
- Neuropathy, damage to a nerve or nerve group, resulting in loss of sensation or function
- Osteoarthritis causes reduced motion in the joints
- Polio, a viral disease affecting muscle tissue that can lead to paralysis
- Polymyositis, an inflammatory disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory autoimmune condition that affects the joints
- Spinal muscular atrophy, a hereditary condition causing arm and leg muscles to waste away
Exercise and an improved diet may also be beneficial if you are experiencing neurogenic atrophy. However, in most cases, more intensive physical therapy and dietary supplements are described. Holistic treatments such as massage and acupuncture can also be helpful. In severe cases, surgery may be recommended by your doctor.
How Can I Prevent Muscle Atrophy?
While muscle atrophy can be treated in most cases, it is best that you take measures to prevent it. Regular exercise can prevent muscle atrophy and other medical conditions associated with a sedentary lifestyle, such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
In order to stimulate your muscles, it is best to combine cardio with full-body resistance training. The Ski-Row Air or Ski-Row Air + PWR machines by EnergyFit is the best way to achieve this. With these machines, a low-impact, full-body workout can be achieved in just 15 minutes.
Instilling a balanced diet with better nutrition into your daily routine can also prevent muscle atrophy. Malnutrition can cause your muscles to be eaten away as your body searches for energy sources. Incorporating a diet of lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats into your diet will promote muscle growth.
Taking steps to prevent muscle atrophy is especially important for sedentary and aging individuals. Both a sedentary lifestyle and advanced age can cause the muscles to weaken more quickly. Keep your muscles healthy and stimulated with regular exercise and a fulfilling diet.
Wrapping it All Up
Muscle atrophy is the loss of muscle mass. Most commonly caused by a lack of muscle contraction and an unbalanced diet, muscle atrophy can be prevented and treated with regular exercise and proper nutrition.
In severe cases, muscle atrophy can be the result of a serious medical condition. If you believe you are experiencing or feel you might be at risk, consult your doctor immediately.
As always, the best treatment is prevention. Our mission at EnergyFit is to keep you moving!