Looking Good and Feeling Healthy for a Lifetime: Your Muscles’ Role

Strength and Pain relief bethlehem chiropractorAre you thinking about looking and feeling better? And would you like to do it soon?

It’s understandable, improving your physique and health helps you feel better and continue to do the activities you love to do.

Your muscles are key players in helping you condition your body so you are fit, heal better and feel better. Enrolling muscle strength and conditioning into your life is a sure bet for feeling better, combatting pain and looking better.

Muscles give your body tone, energy, endurance, strong posture, joint strength and help you lose excess body fat by increasing your metabolism.

There is an old cliché, “Use it or lose it”. This is a very simplistic way to explain what’s called ‘muscle atrophy’. Muscle atrophy is the opposite of muscle strength. Muscle atrophy can happen with neglect. It is the partial or complete loss or “wasting” of muscle tissue. This phenomenon is important, because it can create a weakness along important joints of your body that leave you aching, prone to injury, and in some cases in chronic pain. Any of those things will deplete your energy and sense of well-being.

If your muscles are not able to heed the call of duty when you need them you can be sure you’ve lost some muscle strength or had some muscle atrophy. Muscle atrophy is especially a concern as you age. Often when you age you lose muscle, your body fat increases, your ability to participate in activities or daily routines decrease, and your health decreases.

Muscle atrophy can occur in 2 different ways: neurogenic atrophy and disuse atrophy.

  • Neurogenic muscle atrophy can be caused by a number of injuries and diseases. When a nerve attached to a muscle is damaged, its signal is disrupted and it cannot reach the brain, the peripheral nerves, or the spinal cord. This leads to an inability to use the muscle correctly. Nerve damage from an injury, such as compression, can also result in muscle atrophy. HealthGrades.com also describes several potential causes of muscle atrophy, including neuromuscular diseases ranging from multiple sclerosis to diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage associated with diabetes).
  • Disuse muscle atrophy is caused by a sedentary lifestyle—that is, one that involves little to no physical exercise. The less the muscles are used, the more likely it is that they will atrophy. According to HealthGrades.com, “Other common causes of disuse atrophy include conditions that decrease mobility, such as rheumatoid arthritis (a chronic autoimmune disease characterized by joint inflammation) or osteoarthritis (the thinning and weakening of the bones), and injuries such as broken bones…and often, the aging process often leads to slow but progressive muscle atrophy.”

Factors affecting muscle strength (non-disease related)

  • GENETIC ASYMMETRY creating weakness
    We do not usually develop symmetrical. Some muscles are more developed on one side of the body than on the other side. A fraction of an inch, and sometimes half an inch doesn’t usually matter. Bigger variations can matter and you may or may not know yet that you have them. We can spot some of these for you. Grab a complimentary “Uncover Your Imbalances” Session with me.We are born with short muscles or long muscles

    The length of a muscle is one of the primary factors determining how much it can develop. The longer a muscle is (that is, the farther it runs from its insertion points), the easier it is to build the muscle.On the contrary, the shorter a muscle is, the more difficult it is to develop. Unfortunately, because muscle length is determined genetically, you cannot lengthen a muscle. This does not lead to atrophy but may lead to a less strength when compared to somebody else.

    The Fibrous Density and Development of Muscles

    The more fibers a muscle has, the bigger it is, even without strength training. During exercise, a dense muscle will react better than the same muscle with fewer fibers. Fortunately, there are methods to increase the number of muscle fibers.

  • SKELETAL ASYMMETRY creating weakness
    Our skeletons are not perfectly symmetrical either. For example, one shoulder may be held higher than the other. This lack of symmetry changes the lever in all upper-body exercises, particularly exercises for the shoulders, chest, and back. Naturally, this will affect strength and muscle development; however, skeletal asymmetry may also be at the root of many injuries. This is where your chiropractor can help you improve.

Sometimes muscle weakness or atrophy can be an indication of severe malnutrition or alcohol-related muscle disease. Damage to nerves due to an injury of the spinal cord, long-term corticosteroid therapy, muscular dystrophy, osteoarthritis, polio, rheumatoid arthritis, or even burns can also result in muscle atrophy.

Prevention of muscle atrophy or weakness involves three separate, but complementary approaches to keeping your muscles healthy: 1) eating a nutritious diet, 2) exercising safely and regularly, and 3) maintaining spinal alignment and muscle symmetry. I work as your expert in spinal alignment, greatly ensuring you feel strong, put-together and pain-free.

In terms of nutrition, eating a healthy, balanced diet that has sufficient amounts of protein is the first step. Depending on your specific requirements, a nutritionist or other healthcare professional may also recommend supplements that support muscle growth and development, such as creatine, whey and/or glutamine.

Researchers at Colorado State University have also found that a low-sugar diet may also be quite effective. “When insulin levels are chronically high, your body’s cells attempt to limit its effects by decreasing their numbers of insulin receptors, a condition known as insulin resistance. In advanced cases, insulin resistance results in a swing to the opposite extreme, whereby cells become starved for amino acids and glucose and, as a result, muscle protein break downs. To keep your insulin levels on an even keel, avoid processed carbohydrates and opt for whole grains. Also, choose fresh fruits over dried or canned.”

For exercise, most people will benefit from low-impact physical activities like walking and swimming. Others may safely increase the size and strength of their muscles through simple body-weight exercises that also build coordination and balance.

If you’re currently suffering from any type of medical condition or haven’t been physically active for an extended period of time, it’s always a good idea to consult your doctor before starting a new fitness regimen. He or she will be able to evaluate your health and recommend an appropriate fitness program for you.

As for maintaining spinal alignment and muscle symmetry, many people benefit from using chiropractic treatments so they feel more motion in their joints and less restriction in movement. This positively affects your energy, pain levels, posture and strength. In many cases you feel this health improvement directly after a chiropractic treatment.