Exercises for Leg Atrophy

Muscle atrophy occurs with wasting or loss of muscle tissue. The muscle in your legs can atrophy because of disease or lack of exercise. Leg atrophy can be neurogenic atrophy, which is related to a nerve disease such as Lou Gehrig's disease. You can prevent and correct disuse atrophy by engaging in a home exercise program or participating in water aerobics. All exercises should be done with the assistance and monitoring of a doctor or physical therapist.

A physical therapist manipulating a woman's leg for her. (Image: KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images)

About Range of Motion Exercises

Range of motion exercises are important because they help with flexibility, joint health and improve blood flow throughout your body. ROM exercises can either be passive, active or active-assisted. All versions of ROM exercises are important to get your legs moving and to prevent stiffness. Passive exercises are done for you with the assistance of a caregiver or physical therapist, active exercises are done by you alone and active-assisted are a combination of active and passive. The only exercises that build muscle strength are those that you can do alone as you are able to voluntarily move the muscle. Exercises for leg atrophy involve doing active or passive hip and knee exercises so you are gently moving these joints through their full range of motion. Check with your doctor before beginning any exercise regimen.

Hip and Knee Bends

Active hip and knee bends require laying both your legs flat and straight on a bed. Slowly bend your left knee and bring it as close to your chest as possible, then straighten your leg back onto the bed. Repeat five times with each leg. For passive exercises for caregivers, place one hand under the left ankle and the other under the left knee. Slowly bend the patient's knee toward the chest as far as possible, then straighten the leg and place it onto the bed. Repeat five times with each leg.

Active Leg Movements

While lying down with your legs straight, rise your right leg so it is 5 to 10 inches off the bed. Hold it in the air for a few seconds then lower it back onto the bed. Next, point your right toes toward the ceiling and move your leg straight out to the right, then bring it back to resting in the middle. Finally, roll your right leg so the big toe touches the bed then move it the other way so your small toe touches the bed. Repeat each exercise five times with each leg.

Passive Leg Movements

As a caregiver, place a hand under the right ankle and another under the right knee. Lift the right leg so it is 5 to 10 inches off the bed. Hold it in the air for a few seconds then lower it back onto the bed. Next move the right leg straight out to the right, then bring it back to resting in the middle. Finally, roll the right leg so the big toe touches the bed then move it the other way so the small toe touches the bed. Repeat each exercise five times with each leg.

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