Conversations with Myself: Muscle Atrophy

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A few years ago I started noticing a loss of muscle function. Numerous trips to the doctor (GP) yielded no results. After a fall down a few stairs and spending a week in hospital having three bone scans and an MRI still yielded no results. Not being able to attach a label to my problem, I was made to believe (by the medical profession) that it was all in my head.

I eventually sort the help of an excellent Physiotherapist who has been helping me to regain the use of my muscles but even when I mentioned the possibility of muscle atrophy to her, she immediately assumed I was referring to muscular dystrophy and dismissed my question because she said muscular dystrophy would have been picked up a lot earlier in life. The possibility of muscular atrophy still bugged me and has been sitting at the back of my mind for a long time.

Today, I decided to Google Muscle Atrophy and this is what I found:
• Muscle atrophy is the wasting or loss of muscle tissue (turns out my assumption was not that far off track)
• There are two types of muscle atrophy: Disuse atrophy occurs from lack of physical activity (which is why I suspected I had it – but of course, I was told it was all in my head). According to Google: in most people, muscle atrophy is caused by not using the muscles enough (true in every sense of the word in my case – hence my suspicion). People with seated jobs, medical conditions that limit their movement, or decreased activity levels can lose muscle tone and develop atrophy (all true in my case hence the reason for my suspicion).
• This type of atrophy can be reversed with exercise and better nutrition (which is exactly what I am trying to do right now).
• The most severe type of muscle atrophy is neurogenic atrophy – I will not go into this because this does not apply in my case.
• Although people can adapt to muscle atrophy, even minor muscle atrophy usually causes some loss of movement or strength.
• Causes – some muscle atrophy occurs normally with aging – other causes may include (among others) not moving (immobilization), Osteoarthritis (I’m only mentioning these because they are the only ones which apply to my situation).
• Home care – an exercise programme (under the direction of a therapist or doctor) is recommended to help treat muscle atrophy.

This may include exercises in water to reduce the muscle workload, and other types of rehabilitation. (my programme consists of water therapy twice per week and a Personal Trainer three times per week).

So all this was not just “in my head” after all. I was experiencing real problems which actually had a name. Just because the people I consulted did not know what it was did not mean it does not exist.

Listen to your body and don’t give up until you find the answers you are looking for. Somewhere out there you will find answers. Just don’t give up until you find them.
References: Chinnery PF. Muscle Diseases. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine . 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011: chap 429.

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