Muscle Atrophy – Causes


Here are muscle atrophy causes, information on symptoms and treatment.

What is Muscle Atrophy ?

Muscle Atrophy is medically defined as  a condition that is commonly characterized by decrease in the mass of the muscle, either partially or completely. This phenomenon is also known as ‘muscle wasting’.

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Muscle atrophy can be classified into two main types, and one is more serious as compared to the other. The first type is known as disuse atrophy while the second type is referred to as neurogenic atrophy. The symptoms of both types of muscle atrophy are the same, but each has different causes and dissimilar treatment methods.

Symptoms of Muscle Atrophy

The signs and symptoms of muscle atrophy are as follows:

  • The symptoms of disuse muscle atrophy can be easily recognized by all, when it appears on others as well as on oneself. The common symptoms include the occurrence of flabby, weak muscles. Muscles that are not exercised tend to become weakened and ultimately lead to muscle atrophy
  • The symptoms of neurogenic muscle atrophy cannot be as easily recognized by a lay person. One of the signs of neurogenic muscle atrophy includes weakness of the postural muscles, which are also known as antigravity muscles. These muscles are responsible for enabling humans to be able to stand erect.
    • Hence, the first major symptom of neurogenic muscle atrophy involves a stooped or abnormal posture.
    • A few other signs include walking difficulties, contractures of the hamstring, increased inflexibility of the spine, back pain, restricted movement of the neck and contractures of the Achilles tendon.
    • It is also important to note that the heart is a muscle and when it is affected by muscle atrophy, then it can result in cardiac failure.
    • Most of the above symptoms are visible and easily observed. However, excessive levels of creatine kinase, which is also another symptom of muscle atrophy, can only be determined via diagnostic tests that are conducted by a medical professional in a laboratory.

Muscle atrophy causes

The causes of disuse muscle atrophy are discussed below:

  • Most of the cases of muscle atrophy are generally caused due to muscle disuse. It is popularly believed that muscles are generally not exercised by individuals who are bedridden, which prevents them from carrying out the daily routine and physical activities. However, living a sedentary lifestyle is the major cause of muscle atrophy.
  • One may note that the effects of this type of muscle atrophy can be countered with intense exercising. Hence, it is important to avoid leading a sedentary life and engage in regular exercising to avoid developing the condition.

The causes of neurogenic muscle atrophy are listed below:

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  • Neurogenic muscle atrophy is not as common as disuse muscle atrophy, but harder to treat. It is generally caused due to various diseases or injuries of muscle nerves. Some of the diseases that commonly cause the condition are Lou Gehrig’s disease, myotonic dystrophy, poliomyelitis, Guillain-Barre syndrome and muscular dystrophy.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the better known causes of neurogenic muscle atrophy
  • A few types of injuries can also result in compression of the muscle nerves which can eventually damage them. Such damage can be undone in many cases of muscle atrophy, but when it is the result of diseases such as stroke or multiple scoliosis, then the damage may be progressive and irreversible.
  • A herniated disc or other such conditions can occasionally interrupt the brain function or activities of a peripheral nerve or spinal cord. This can result in compression of the spinal column leading to damage of the nerve, eventually causing muscle atrophy.

Treatment of muscle atrophy

  • Diagnosis of the type of muscle atrophy is critical to the treatment of the condition, as the treatment methods differ greatly. Doctors may recommend different types of exercises with varying degrees of intensity to correct the abnormalities associated with disuse muscle atrophy
  • Neurogenic muscle atrophy may be treated as per the cause of the condition. The compression and inflammation of the damaged nerves can be managed and treated with anti-inflammatory medications such as corticosteroids.
  • Surgical intervention may sometimes be required to treat various diseases and conditions causing muscle atrophy. For example, herniated discs have to be corrected via a surgical procedure
  • The compression of the muscle nerves can also be ease with the help of musculoskeletal adjustments that are performed by osteopaths. A chiropractor can also help in the manipulation of the musculoskeletal system. The doctors perform these changes so as to stretch the spinal cord and thereby provide relief and ease the pressure on the constricted or pinched nerves.
  • The cases of muscle atrophy that are caused due to incurable and progressive disease cannot be treated as yet. But the advancements in the field of medicine, have provided the opportunity to relieve the distress, pain and other symptoms of muscle atrophy as well as delay the progression of the condition to a certain extent.
  • Bedridden individuals, older people and persons with incapacitating conditions have to make an effort to indulge in exercises to treat muscle atrophy. Older individuals are especially susceptible to muscle atrophy from disuse. Hence they should make it a point to regularly engage in mild exercises, walking, swimming, etc.
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  5. Duchenne muscular dystrophy treatment

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