Preventing Muscle Atrophy (A Basic Guide)

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Muscle atrophy in injured individuals can be one of the most frustrating side effects of a surgical procedure. If left unchecked it can cause long term issues due to differences in the strength and stability of limbs. No matter what you do you are almost guaranteed to suffer some muscle atrophy after a surgical procedure but there are ways that you can limit the issue and help you get back to full strength sooner.

What Causes Muscle Atrophy

Muscle atrophy refers to the loss of muscle tissue in the body. Common causes usually include.

  • Lack of Physical Exercise – Whether due to injury or immobility of some kind, this is the most common cause for muscle atrophy.
  • Poor Nutrition – Poor eating habits can cause the muscles to eat themselves to help fuel your body.
  • Genetics – Unfortunately some people who suffer from muscle atrophy are born with a disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy, which causes a loss in motor nerve cells.

How to Prevent Muscle Atrophy

In cases like my own. Muscle atrophy will be caused mostly by lack of physical exercise and will be affected heavily by my nutritional choices. ACL Reconstructions require a period of a few months where I will be severely limited in my exercise options as I wait for the wounds to heal and the graft to consolidate in the joint, for several months I will be doing small, sometimes mundane exercises to help ensure minimal muscle atrophy in my quads, hamstring and calf muscles.

The exercises include things like body weight leg lifts, front, side and back. Muscle contractions in my quads, hamstring and calves to keep them active and help stop them from shutting down. After a few weeks I should also be able to go on easy walks and very light gym work to keep active. I will go into more detail on early ACL reconstruction rehab in a future post as I am going through it.

The next most important thing for muscle atrophy is a strong healthy nutrition plan. Luckily for me I have access to some of Australias best nutritionists through the AIS and OWIA to help guide me through the process. A diet high in Lean Proteins and fruits/Veg will ensure the best chances for success, as well as a healthy amount of carbohydrates for energy to prevent excessive weight loss. Eating at an energy deficit during this period of inactivity is not recommended.

Unfortunately Muscle Atrophy is just a part of the rehabilitation process. But with the right strategy and enough determination you can speed up your recovery rate significantly, and prevent many of the worst side effects of surgery. Remember the harder you work at the little things at the beginning, the easier the big things will be towards the end.

Did you suffer any problems with muscle atrophy in the course of recovering from an injury you suffered? let me know in the comments.

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