Tips to Regain Body Mass and Muscle Strength after Prolonged Illness
There are two kinds of muscle atrophy. One is atrophy caused by lack of use, such as might happen if you have just been unable to use your muscles through a prolonged period of immobility after an accident or illness. The second kind is neurogenic atrophy, which is a disorder that affects the nerves connecting the muscles.
You can’t exercise your way out of neurogenic atrophy disorders like polio, but you can recover muscle strength and regain body mass after atrophy caused by nothing other than lack of use. Of course, it’s still like learning to ride a bike the first time. You find that things you could do before easily can no longer be done. You have to struggle and strain your muscles to the limit to accomplish simple things which others do all the time.
For instance, if one of your feet has been in a cast for six or more months, you may find it extremely hard to lift the leg up to take a step forward. The other leg does it easily, but the damaged one gets dragged along. You will struggle hard to lift it up and the trick here is not to try to walk right away.
Your physical therapist will tell you that you just need to start by learning to lift your leg up in place. You can do this while you’re lying down or seated with resistance bands to make it harder. It’s all about giving the muscles a workout and rebuilding the strength required to lift your leg at will. Then you can learn to walk.
Your therapist may also suggest aquatic therapy. It usually works very well in cases where muscle atrophy is causing terrible pain and stress on the bones when you try to move or lift weights. But when you’re pushing your muscles against water, the bones aren’t feeling any pressure and the only exercise and strain is on your muscles.
Another thing that will help speed up the process is your diet. A protein-rich diet and supplements like Whey protein and BCAA will help you regain body mass and muscle strength much faster than you could just through physical therapy and workouts.
Your dietitian will no doubt come up with something that’s suitable for you, but muscle building foods that usually work nicely include fish (salmon and sardines) that are packed with omega3 fatty acids, lean meats with a high protein content, eggs , whole grains, fruits and vegetables. The supplements that will kick your muscle building process into high-gear include creatine, whey protein, BCAA and glutamine.