Muscle atrophy is a condition wherein the muscles waste away due to lack of physical activities. Muscle atrophy usually develops when a disease or an injury makes it impossible for a person to move a part of the limb, typically an arm or a leg.
When muscle atrophy develops, the limb loses muscle mass and will appear shorter than the other limb. In some cases, muscle atrophy can be treated through a balanced diet, exercises, or physical therapy. If you are suffering from muscle atrophy, it’s best to call your physician to get a proper diagnosis and the right treatment.
Common Causes of Muscle Atrophy
When muscles have not been active for a long time, it will start wasting away. Typically, people who are bedridden, suffering from a medical condition, or injured develop muscle atrophy over time. Astronauts also suffer from muscle atrophy after a few days of weightlessness in space. Other causes of muscle atrophy include:
- Lack of physical activities
- Spinal cord damage
- Alcohol-associated myopathy
- Long-term corticosteroid therapy
Certain diseases can also cause muscle atrophy such as ALS or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Guillain-Barre syndrome, dermatomyositis, and neuropathy, just to name a few.
Common Signs of Muscle Atrophy
So how do you know if you are suffering from this debilitating condition? Some of the most common signs of muscle atrophy include remarkable weakness in one limb where the affected limb appears to have shrunk in size after you have been physically inactive for quite some time. The best way to confirm if you are indeed suffering from muscle atrophy is to submit yourself to a full medical examination. Some people develop muscle atrophy because of a hereditary condition or a yet-undiagnosed disease.
Treatment for Muscle Atrophy
The good news is that muscle atrophy is treatable. However, treatment will depend largely on the severity of muscle loss or the diagnosis of your doctor. Some of the most common treatment for muscle atrophy includes surgery, dietary changes, exercise, physical therapy, and ultrasound therapy.
Some patients—particularly those that have extreme difficulty in moving—go through water exercises to treat muscle atrophy. For those undergoing physical therapy, a physical therapist will demonstrate the right way to exercise the affected area as well as conduct deep tissue massage to stimulate the stiff muscles, bringing back flexibility and minimizing pain in the affected area.
In some cases, surgery is required. Such cases include patients with damaged or too-tight ligaments, tendons, muscles, or skin due to burns. Cases like these would fall under a condition called contracture deformity. For those who suffer from muscle atrophy due to malnutrition, surgery is usually the recommended treatment.
For those who want a noninvasive procedure to treat muscle atrophy, one of the most promising treatments includes ultrasound therapy.
Ultrasound therapy is a type of deep-heat treatment from sound waves. A machine will generate sound waves on the affected area, gently massaging and stimulating blood circulation while decreasing pain, stiffness, or muscle spasms.
There are cases wherein muscle atrophy developed through a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle. For those who developed the condition from poor nutrition and lack of physical activities, your physician will design your diet and lifestyle to treat imbalances that contributed to the condition.