This is topic Muscle Atrophy - Question in forum Books, Films, Food and Culture at Hatrack River Forum.

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Posted by reader (Member # 3888) on :
This is for the purposes of a story I'm writing,; I tried to research this on my own without much success.

How much will muscles atrophy in a one-week period of a deep (coma-like) sleep?

Also, if a person were to be put into a coma-like sleep for one week at a time, with only a one or two day period of wakefullness and vigorous excercising in between, would the muscles be able to maintain (most of) their strength, or would they atrophy to a significant extent?

If no, how long would be the max period of sleep possible in between the one or two days of excericse? And if yes, would a longer period of sleep be possible?

Even informed guesses would be very helpful; I'm writing fantasy, so I can brush off slight deviations as having something to do with magic. Cheating, I know, which is why I'd like to get this as realistic as possible. Any and all help will be much appreciated. [Smile]
Posted by rivka (Member # 4859) on :
Today seems to be I-haven't-posted-in-ages-but-I'd-like-to-pick-the-collective-Hatrack-mind day. [Wink]

Long time no see, reader! [Wave]

IANAD, but I'd guess that you'd be awfully stiff after a week, but not much atrophying would occur. Although I don't know how true that would be if you kept repeating the cycle. [Dont Know]
Posted by ketchupqueen (Member # 6877) on :
Too bad it's not sci-fi. Then you could do something with a specially designed gadget in the bed that utilizes electromagnetic fields or some such cliche to exercise muscles while the sleeper, well, sleeps.
Posted by rivka (Member # 4859) on :
Any reason not to use the magical equivalent? An exercise-while-you-sleep spell/potion/magical thingamy-whatsit?
Posted by Boris (Member # 6935) on :
AFAIK, atrophy really starts after the first week. It speeds up if there isn't a steady and sufficient supply of protein available for the muscles to burn. Muscle and joint stiffness would set in pretty quickly after a day or so if the subject isn't moved around by another person (From what I know, nurses will stretch the limbs of comatose patients I think once a day or so to make sure things are able to move should the person wake up).

But I'm just making educated logical guesses [Smile]
Posted by Theca (Member # 1629) on :
I don't know any specifics. It would depend a bit on the age of the person, older people get weak much faster.

Range of motion exercises won't help all that much at preventing atrophy and weakness but would help prevent stiffness/joint problems. Could your fantasy include something more... activating than range of motion, like muscle stimulation or musle exercises while comatose? I can imagine a comatose person being hooked up by wires to an exercise bike or something like that. That would prevent atrophy.

I mean in a futuristic or fantasy sitution, of course.
Posted by Theca (Member # 1629) on :
Another thought. "Comatose" is sort of a vague word that includes a lot of things. It is sort of a nonmedical word nowadays. You could consider using a sort of sleep state where the person was not really self-aware or able to talk or make choices but would be able to be directed to chew, swallow, stand, walk, sit, lie down, etc, with close one on one supervision. That could be a useful concept if the deepsleep state was for mental healing. You could still wake the person up every week for a discussion/exam then put them back out if they weren't healed enough yet. Again, this is a fantasy or futuristic idea. Not something currently practiced on this planet. [Smile]
Posted by aspectre (Member # 2222) on :
While not quite equivalent, bedrest has often been used as a test on the effects of microgravity on physiology.
Posting the link mostly cuz there is medical jargon there which will be useful as keywords for further searches.
Which I might do later to satisfy my own curiosity inregard to your question.
Posted by advice for robots (Member # 2544) on :
What does IANAD mean?
Posted by ketchupqueen (Member # 6877) on :
I am not a doctor?
Posted by advice for robots (Member # 2544) on :
Posted by ketchupqueen (Member # 6877) on :
Posted by SC Carver (Member # 8173) on :
My brother is a Quadriplegic. Muscle atrophy is a major issue with quads. Most wouldn't be able to regain any movement if their spinal cord was repaired because of atrophy. To prevent this, and to give him some good exercise we have a special exercise bike he rides a couple of times a week. He gets hooked up with electrodes that stimulate his muscles into moving. It is the same thing Christopher Reeves used. The computer controls the order of muscle contractions causing them to ride the bike on their own power.

Perhaps you could use something like this. Your subjects could be completely unconscious and the computer could give them the exercise they need. Of course they would have to be able to move. Not strapped down to a bed. They would also need to be moved/weight shifted, on a very regular basis to prevent bed sores. Of course if they were in a zero G atmosphere pressure points wouldn't be a problem.
Posted by Elizabeth (Member # 5218) on :
I was bedridden almost exclusivley for two weeks. After the first week, i could get up with assistance, and my head was so dizzy I felt like I was drunk-in a bad way.

I had to have blodd thinners, because there was a danger of clotting.

I had to have these annoying-as-heck booties on my legs which sort of massaged mu legs to keep circulation moving.

I had a neurological reason which kept me immobile for the first week, but they were definitle worried about muscle loss, and I lost a lot of iehgt. Again, not in good way.

Really, though, I believe their concern was more about the blood clotting.
Posted by reader (Member # 3888) on :
Thanks for all the help, everyone. [Smile]

Rivka: [Wave] I actually lurk here almost every day, I just rarely post.

I suppose I could come up with some sort of magic that would prevent any atrophying from taking place, but my system of magic isn't the open-ended sort; there are limited varieties of magic possible, and fitting this ability in somewhere would be a bit of a stretch, even though it would be possible, if necessary.

Aspectre: Thanks for the link; it was very interesting, and prompted me to do a search for "prolonged bed rest" (which for some reason I hadn't done before. [Roll Eyes] ) But I still haven't found exactly what I need.

Theca: The person is question is a sixteen year old boy in very good condition; up until recently, he spent lots of time helping out on a farm and hunting.

Elizabeth: Thanks for the description; it's very helpful. [Smile] I'd forgotten about the danger of blood-clotting. Is there less of a danger if the person in question is very young (a teen) and healthy?

The truth is, I think I'm just going to have to figure out some sort of magical method that helps prevent muscle weakness and atrophication, but isn't totally perfect; I think that'll work best for what I need, and that way I can put him to sleep for longer periods at a time, which will be better anyway. (I was willing to settle for just one week at a time if I could do it without any magic required for keeping his muscles from weakening too drastically, but that doesn't seem like it'll work.)

Still, any more information (if anyone happens to have it) would be really welcome, to make sure I don't mess up. (I know I'm being a bit closed-mouth about exactly what the situation is, but it involves too much of my storyline, and I'm reluctant to discuss my story in general on a public forum. Also, when I talk too much about my plot, I find it more difficult to write. [Smile] )
Posted by Elizabeth (Member # 5218) on :
I don;t think thers is less danger. In fact, colleague's son was severly head injured, and was in a coma. (this was years ago, I assume he still is, if he is still alive.) He was 17, a hockry player, in about the best shape you could imagine. He lost muscle very quickly.

However, I remember them saying that, in a way, his good condition kept him alive longer than he should have been, and put him in a coma instead.

Eek, I really feel bad I never found out what happened with him.

So, basically, the more muscle a person has, the longer it takes to lose it, but it goes quickly nonetheless.
Posted by Darth Ender (Member # 7694) on :
The dark side can maintain for longer periods of time
Posted by rivka (Member # 4859) on :
Originally posted by reader:

Rivka: [Wave] I actually lurk here almost every day, I just rarely post.

Oh, you're one of those! [Wink]

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