Excessive bed rest can lead to muscle atrophy, says Physiotherapist

There are simple exercises that can be done during bed rest.

The Chief Physiotherapist at the Abuja National Hospital, Charles Gado, says body movement is necessary for humans and other animals to live healthy lives and avoid muscle atrophy.

He said that without movement, bone density would reduce, while the muscles would deteriorate.

Mr. Gado, who said this in Abuja on Tuesday, described muscle atrophy as the wasting away of the muscle.

He said that, for most people, muscle atrophy is caused by not using the muscles enough.

People with sedentary jobs, medical conditions that limit their movement, or decreased activity levels, can lose muscle tone and develop atrophy.

This type of atrophy can be reversed with exercise and better nutrition, Mr. Gado said.

“The muscular system in conjunction with the skeletal system and the nervous system is very important for movement and none of these systems can function properly without the other,” the physiotherapist added.

Demerit of bed rest

Mr. Gado said that prolonged bed rest is detrimental to the body because it can reduce movement and lead to muscle atrophy.

“What you see when you have a prolonged rest on bed is what we call muscle atrophy. The muscles gradually starts losing its bulk and that is what muscle atrophy is,” he said. “Once it loses its bulk, it loses its strength, it loses its normal physiology; you see a patient that is agile, strong and active suddenly becoming very weak and cannot do any activity.”

He added that “for a healthy human being once you are restrained on bed for a long period, you actually lose your strength. You become weak; in fact it goes a long way to even affect the skeletal system because it makes the skeletal system to become less dense and more prone to breakage.”

The physiotherapist said prolonged bed rest could not be defined as a specific time for atrophy to occur, because the deterioration differed from person to person.

“It can take a week, a few months or longer depending on the body type, age and gender of the patient in question.

“Apart from bed rest, the patient’s health and nutritional input prior to the particular bed rest are other factors that determine the rate of muscular deterioration,” he said.

According to Mr. Gado, when a patient is advised to go on bed rest, it does not mean that the patient should not do anything. He said bed rest was often recommended to enable certain structure tissues of the body to rest in order to promote healing. He said that while the tissues are resting, other body parts should remain active.

Bed rest activities

The Abuja physiotherapist listed some activities that can be done during bed rest as: deep breathing exercises, take a deep breath and blow out; shrugging of shoulders up and down in bed; and easy pull of legs forward and backwards slowly on the bed.

“Those are simple exercises you can do,” Mr. Gado said. All you need to do is to do them repeatedly. You can say okay I decide I want to do it 10 times and have two minutes rest and repeat it again.

He advised people who worked long hours at a desk to periodically get up and walk around to exercise their bodies.

Mr. Gado listed other causes of muscle atrophy as Polio, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and neuropathy.

He warned that full recovery is not always possible once atrophy occurred. But, with the right diet and exercise, a diseased or disused muscle can be revived.


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