Word of the Week: Atrophy

illustration of scientist looking into microscope - word of the week

Alex Dos Diaz / Verywell

Each week, Verywell explains a term from health, medicine, science, or technology.


How to say it: Atrophy (at-TROW-fee)

What it means: Loss of muscle.

Where it comes from: From Greek, atrophos, "ill fed"

A diagram of a normal leg muscle versus an atrophied leg muscle.

OpenStax/Wikimedia Commons

Where you might see or hear it: Your muscles get and stay strong when you use them. If you don't use your muscles for a long time, they'll shrink and become weak (atrophied).

Weak muscles can happen if you get sick or hurt and have to stay in bed for a long time. Your provider might tell you that the weakness of your body is from muscle atrophy.

When you might want to use it: If you're recovering from an injury or illness and aren't able to move around much, you'll probably be frustrated that you can't keep up with your usual activities.

It may help to explain to your loved ones that you're having trouble because your muscles are weak after not using them for so long.

You might be able to take small steps to start rebuilding your strength, such as doing gentle stretching. Eating enough protein is also important; your body uses it to build muscle.

1 Source
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  1. Pasiakos SM, McLellan TM, Lieberman HR. The effects of protein supplements on muscle mass, strength, and aerobic and anaerobic power in healthy adults: A systematic reviewSports Med. 2015;45(1):111-131. doi:10.1007/s40279-014-0242-2

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