What Causes Muscle Atrophy for Women Over 50

By on September 8, 2020
muscle atrophy

Exercise is a “catabolic” experience. Exercise breaks down muscle groups during the activity. The “anabolic” opportunity – or the increase in lean muscle – occurs between exercise sessions. Building muscle is a process of breaking down and rebuilding the muscles. Muscle atrophy is when muscles waste away. It’s usually caused by a lack of physical activity and so is different from our breaking down and building up of our muscles from exercise. 

What is muscle atrophy?

Due to the anabolic rebuilding process, muscles regenerate and become stronger from exercise and use. The lack of use and exercise is the main cause of muscle atrophy. There are a few other causes that need to be considered, however the lack of use caused by an injury or accident tends to be the most common cause. Even after it begins, this type of atrophy can often be reversed with exercise and improved nutrition.

Signs of muscle atrophy

Over time, without regular movement, your arm or leg can start to appear smaller but not shorter than the one you’re able to move. Look out for these signs and symptoms:

  • One of your arms or legs is noticeably smaller than the other.
  • You’re experiencing marked weakness in one limb.
  • You’ve been physically inactive for a very long time.

Causes of muscle atrophy

As we have discussed, less use or no use of a specific muscle group will start the breakdown of muscles. This applies to everyone no matter your age or health conditions. Some degeneration of our muscles though are caused by medical conditions and a major contributor is our age.

Some medical conditions can cause muscles to waste away or can make movement difficult, leading to muscle atrophy. These include:

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, affects nerve cells that control voluntary muscle movement
  • 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
  • Osteoarthritis, causes reduced motion in the joints
  • 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

Treatment of muscle atrophy

The course of action and treatment is dependant on the cause of your atrophy and the severity. Underlying medical conditions need to be addressed with the assistance of your doctors. Without addressing the condition, the efforts to rebuild your muscle strength will be hampered.

Exercise

You may not be able to participate in the Olympics, but any form of exercise is helpful. Resistance and activity will break down the muscles encouraging them to rebuild and strengthen themselves.

Physical therapy

Physical therapists can teach you the correct ways to exercise. They can also move your arms and legs for you if you have trouble moving. If your muscle atrophy has reached dangerous levels, you may not have the strength in those muscles to exercise them. Obtaining physical therapy could be the first step to regaining mobility.

Ultrasound therapy

While attending your physical therapist, they may use ultrasound therapy. Ultrasound therapy is a noninvasive procedure that uses sound waves to aid in healing the muscles. 

Dietary changes

We are what we eat. A diet that is lacking antioxidants and nutritional value will not feed your muscles and provide them with the fuel to grow and regenerate effectively.

As women over 50, we are more susceptible to muscle atrophy. A fall or an injury can easily sideline us. Our muscles, bones, and bodies are generally working slower than before, with slower recovery. The best solution is to have regular check-ups with your medical practitioner and find ways to keep yourself active, even if you are bedridden.

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What Causes Muscle Atrophy for Women Over 50