Disuse Syndrome

Disuse Syndrome

Use it or lose it.

If you suffer from any type of chronic pain, you are at risk for developing a physical “disuse” syndrome.  You have heard the expression, “use it or lose it”?  Our bodies are designed to move and be active.

What is disuse syndrome?

Basically, it describes the effects on the body and mind when a person is sedentary.

Disuse syndrome was first characterized around 1984 and, since that time, has received much attention in relation to back pain problems, other chronic pain disorders, and other illnesses. It has been generalized beyond chronic pain problems and some feel it is related to “the base of much human ill-being.”

The disuse syndrome is caused by prolonged physical inactivity (even as short as a week) and is made worse by the culture of our sedentary society.

What happens with disuse syndrome?

There are several physical consequences from disuse. These occur in many body systems, most notably those of the muscles and skeleton, cardiovascular, blood components, the gastrointestinal system, the endocrine systems, and the nervous system. For instance, consider the following:

In the musculoskeletal system, disuse of muscles can rapidly lead to muscle wasting. If you have ever had an arm or a leg in a cast, you will be familiar with the fact that the diameter of the affected limb may be noticeably smaller after being immobilized for some time.

It can affect your heart and blood pressure:  disuse can decrease in oxygen uptake and cause a rise in systolic blood pressure.

Prolonged physical inactivity can also lead to nervous system changes, including slower mental processing, problems with memory and concentration, depression, and anxiety.

A key factor in chronic pain

Many other detrimental physiological changes can also occur. Disuse has been summarized as follows: “Inactivity plays a pervasive role in our lack of wellness. Disuse is physically, mentally, and spiritually debilitating.” Many experts believe that the disuse syndrome is a key variable in the perpetuation of many chronic pain problems.

The disuse syndrome can result in a myriad of significant medical problems and increase the likelihood of a chronic pain syndrome developing or becoming worse.

Unfortunately, common attitudes and treatments in the medical community often lead to more passive treatment without paying attention to physical activity and any exercise.

The disuse syndrome can also lead to a variety of emotional changes that are associated with an increased perception of pain.

So, what are you going to do?

So, if you are suffering from disuse syndrome, you may be wondering what you can do about it. It can be overwhelming for some people in chronic pain to consider how to get moving.  Get up.  Do what you can.  Increase activity such as walking every day by a little bit. You can do it!  We can help with the pain so that you can do what you need to do.

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