Sunday, January 15, 2006

muscle dysfunction (muscle wasting, muscle cramps, muscle strain)

Wasting of skeletal muscles and a general decrease in muscular strength, endurance, and agility are common in the aged. Their posture tends to become one of general flexation. The head and neck are held forward, the dorsal spine becomes bent forward, the upper limbs are bent at the elbows and wrists, and the hips and knees are also slightly flexed. The aged person usually shows a decrease in movement and in reflexes. Muscle cramps become more troublesome with advancing age. They are characterized by sustained involuntary and painful contractions of a muscle group, frequently following unusual muscular effort and especially at night. Various diseases can contribute to this problem but in most instances the cause is unknown. Their incidence may be diminished by a hot bath at bedtime or by the use of certain drugs such as quinine sulfate or Benadryl®.
Muscle strain is a common problem with older people because of poor muscle tone and atrophy from lack of exercise. The most common location of muscle strain is the neck and lower back. It frequently occurs following an activity that may not have been attempted for some time or is performed for a longer period than usual. Treatment for muscle strain consists of the use of muscle relaxants, aspirin, or other anti-inflammatory drugs. Muscle spasms may be relieved with hot packs, ultrasound, whirlpool, and ice applications. The best treatment, however, is prevention. This can be accomplished through education related to proper back usage and the need for proper exercise. Prolonged inactivity causes a stiffening of the joints and atrophy of the muscles, leading to an increased chance of muscle strain.
Reichel, W. M. Clinical Aspects of Aging. Baltimore: The Williams & Wilkins Co., 1979.

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