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What Is Muscle Atrophy?

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Updated June 04, 2011

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Question: What Is Muscle Atrophy?
A sedentary lifestyle and lack of regular physical activity can cause weakness. The weakness comes from disuse and can lead to muscle atrophy. So, what is muscle atrophy?
Answer: Muscle atrophy is actually the loss or wasting of muscle. There are actually two types of muscle atrophy - disuse atrophy and neurogenic (relating to nerve or nerve tissue) atrophy. When considering the type of muscle atrophy that can develop from lack of physical activity due to joint pain and limited range of motion, we refer to the disuse type of muscle atrophy.

It's somewhat of a vicious cycle: arthritis pain leads to decreased physical activity, which leads to muscle atrophy. But it's important to know that the type of atrophy caused by inactivity can be reversed with exercise.

Several medical conditions can cause muscle atrophy. These are the ones that are related to arthritis:

If you notice that you have muscle atrophy, talk to your doctor. You will likely need to develop an exercise program and stick to it!

Sources:

Muscle atrophy. MedlinePlus. Accessed 5/31/11.
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003188.htm

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