Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) conjures up images of shortness of breath rather than weak muscles, but can COPD also cause muscle weakness?
Research seems to show a connection. But could muscle weakness be a related issue, or is muscle weakness caused by COPD itself?
COPD is a fairly common condition that affects the lungs and airways. It includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis and is mostly, although not exclusively, caused by smoking. Many people with COPD have never smoked.
COPD is a progressive disease, meaning it gets worse over time. The condition damages the lungs and airways, allowing less air to flow and making it harder to breathe.
Quitting smoking is the easiest way to prevent COPD, and while there is no cure, medication and lifestyle changes can reduce the course and symptoms. Difficulty breathing is not the only symptom that can occur, however. In many people, muscle weakness appears to be associated with COPD.
In general, the degree of muscle weakness you may experience is related to the severity of the condition. Muscle atrophy (worsening) is heavier in cases where emphysema is present.
COPD affects the respiratory muscles, including the diaphragm and the intercostal muscles of the thorax, but also appears to affect the skeletal muscles that control the mobility of joints in the upper and lower body.
People living with COPD have many symptoms, including:
- difficulty breathing
- persistent cough
One of the main complaints is muscle weakness, which is often described as fatigue and a general lack of endurance in people with COPD.
Although muscle weakness can occur in the upper and lower extremities, participants in a Study 2019 a significant loss of strength and endurance in the hamstrings, particularly the quadriceps.
While there is a correlation between strength loss and COPD, it is there contradicting research about whether COPD actually causes muscle wasting or if the muscle wasting is the result of coexisting factorssuch as:
- heart conditions
- nutritional abnormalities
- sedentary lifestyle
The cause of the muscle weakness and loss of muscle mass associated with COPD is complicated, as muscle dysfunction comes in a variety of forms and causes.
Some of the mechanisms that cause muscle weakness are intrinsic to the neuromuscular fibers themselves. Other mechanisms may be extrinsic, such as B. The remodeling of the chest wall that occurs when breathing is inefficient.
Although some muscle wasting can be caused by a decrease in physical activity due to a diagnosis of COPD, some muscle wasting can be due to the advanced age of the person living with COPD. Some could be attributed to other aspects of the disease itself.
Different levels and causes of muscle loss are as diverse as people themselves. Chances are that each person has a unique combination of exact causes.
However, it appears that the following factors contribute:
- the progression of COPD
- decreased oxygen supply to muscle fibers
- Comorbidities such as heart disease, diabetes or cancer
it is well documented that the muscle weakness associated with COPD most commonly affects the legs.
Whether this weakness is a result of inactivity and poor nutrition or some aspect of the disease is not 100% clear. Quiet, studies show that muscle integrity increases the chances of survival in COPD, so there is reason to believe that exercise and muscle hypertrophy may be advantageous.
COPD progresses as symptoms worsen. The main symptoms of COPD are:
- shortness of breath
- mucus production
If these increase in frequency or intensity, the disease is likely to progress.
COPD is a progressive disease and can get worse without intervention. There is currently no cure for COPD, but its progression can be slowed. The best ways to do this are:
- If you smoke, stop. A doctor can recommend products and services that may help.
- Start with an exercise routine that is safe for you.
- Begin with rehabilitation practices led by a professional.
If your COPD continues to get worse, you must:
- may need to use an oxygen tank for breathing
- may be affected by limited mobility and difficulty performing everyday tasks
- have more frequent doctor and hospital visits
- experience memory loss
Because many of these symptoms also occur with other conditions, it is important to follow treatment as prescribed.
Depending on the course of the disease, COPD can significantly impair mobility.
one Study 2018 showed that certain mobility tasks were more affected than others.
For example, activities such as climbing stairs or carrying objects were more affected by COPD in terms of weakness and shortness of breath. But more strength-oriented activities — like moving something heavy — were less affected.
So it appears that mobility is affected by a lack of endurance rather than a loss of strength or joint mobility.
Cardiovascular exercise, and walking in particular, has been shown to improve prognosis for people with COPD.
One study showed that walking 1 hour per day in people with COPD reduced their hospital relapses by 50%. Logging 5,000 steps per day has been used as a good goal to improve the rate of progression of COPD.
For those with the mobility and strength to walk, it’s a simple exercise that can be done as slowly and as comfortably as possible. Walking relieves COPD symptoms and likely slows its progression.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a degenerative condition, but when kept in its mild form, it can have a lesser impact on your life, health, and mobility. If not controlled, COPD is likely to result in difficulty breathing, muscle wasting, reduced mobility, and a reduced ability to perform daily activities.
Although there is currently no cure for COPD, taking a few simple steps can significantly increase survival rates and make life more independent, healthier, and comfortable.
The best first step one can take is to quit smoking. Also, talk to a doctor or rehabilitation specialist and consider strength training and walking for cardiovascular endurance. These strategies can improve your quality of life.