I don’t know about you, but I remember seriously studying about atrophied muscle after being terribly infatuated with the character of Gregory House, the protagonist from the medical drama series called House, MD.
With time though, I could bid farewell to the infatuation but the knowledge (thankfully) remained! The essence was simple – muscle atrophy in simplest of terms can be put down as a decline of the muscle mass and strength. It can cause substantial pain, and at times, even restrict a person’s movement severely.
Over the years, muscle atrophy has kept me interested, especially now that I realise how common it has become given our sedentary lifestyles. We eat more and we move less. We have almost no flexibility of schedule and 30 minutes of weekly gymming makes us feel that we have earned the right to load up our body with crap.
But the worst of it all, is that we are living in denial. I will give you an example. Close your eyes and loudly say the words muscle atrophy. What is the first image that comes to your mind? An elderly? Someone with sunken cheeks or stooping shoulders? Something close to that image, yes? See, herein lies our problem. We are living in the belief that atrophy is something that affects the old and the weak.
A mid-40s guy thinks – I rush from 8 in the morning till late in the evening. I participate in weekly games, take my kids out, go to parties, attend meetings and I am forever running from one job to another. Yes, I may be fat but I am flexible. Muscle atrophy cannot affect me.
Unfortunately for us, atrophy doesn’t work that way. In fact, post age 30, most of us lose as much as 5% muscle mass every decade. That is an alarming number. But we have hope. While we cannot really fight muscle denegation, we can definitely slow it down and also provide relief with the help of massage.
For starters, massage helps provide the requite exercise that is needed to the disused muscles that have atrophied. This increases blood supply and provides nutrition to the muscle tissue that helps the blood vessels and decreases the congestion.
Another huge benefit of massage is that the increased blood flow which automatically means more red blood cells leads to the increase in the metabolism of the local muscle tissue. This will help in optimising the muscle growth and delay the process of atrophy. Though massage cannot arrest atrophy completely, this ability to defer it is certainly good news for those affected.
It is true that massage has no direct contribution in strengthening atrophied muscle. But its ability to reduce inflammation through increase in circulation that results in impingement on peripheral nerves is definitely a step towards the positive. Delayed atrophy is better than atrophy now. And at the end of the day; progress, however insignificant it may seem, is still a step forward than being stuck in the same condition.