Disuse Syndrome

What is Disuse Syndrome?

Lack of effective physical exercise leads to abandonment of organ functionality and the condition is termed as Disuse Syndrome. Sedentary lifestyle negatively affects the physiological system of human and produce multiple organ dysfunctions, resultant of this cause ill-health1.

Disuse Syndrome Muscle


In our body using of organs is an important factor to continue the biological process. The necessity of organ usability is due to energy production and that is an utmost necessity for maintaining the functionality of the whole biological system.

Therefore, using of organs is an anabolic reaction. Physical activity is important for maintaining the activity of the musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems.

Even gastrointestinal tract, endocrine system, and genitourinary tract also require physical activation to work properly. Exercise has the ability to modify organ activity.

But disuse is a catabolic reaction, as it reduces the energy production and hampers the activity of the tissues and organs. This adverse effect leads to ill-health. However, the deteriorative effect of disuse varied depending upon the structure and functionality of the involved organs.

Disuse related structural changes involve diverse phenomena and that include:

  • Bulk of muscle fiber defeated
  • Calcium resorption
  • Number of membrane-binding sites altered
  • The following are the disuse-related functional changes:
  • Body’s own rhythmic processes disrupted
  • Reduced enzyme activity
  • Hormonal responsiveness distorted

All the above-mentioned alterations are closely related to the chemical pathway involved in the energy production1,2.

Organ Specific

Organ-specific Disuse syndrome can be discussed in the following pattern:


Disuse can be a cause of musculoskeletal stiffness and shrinkage. Resultant of this leads to immobilization and provides the catabolic effect. In the urinary organ, stiffness can cause accumulation of nitrogen content in the blood and increase protein loss by increasing catabolic metabolism in the body.

Disuse Syndrome Picture 1

Inactivity can also increase calcium wastage and negatively alters structural and functionality of musculoskeletal system3,4.


Disuse can reduce maximum oxygen consumption in the cardiovascular organs. This will leads to a reduction of cardiac output, stroke volume, and ventricular functioning. It has been estimated that 10 to 15 percent of blood plasma volume reduced with bed rest1,5.

Blood components

Disuse related inactivity causes reduction of erythropoiesis, which can decrease the red blood cells. prolonged bed rest can increase the risk of thrombosis6.

Respiratory organs

Disuse of respiratory organs due to a sedentary lifestyle can cause bronchial obstruction and distorted respiratory functions1.

Gastrointestinal System

Disuse of gastrointestinal system like during starvation causes several structural alterations like glandular leakage, mucosal atrophy. Functional capacity of gut and liver also reduce, which can cause constipation and diverticulosis etc7.

Genitourinary System

Disuse can cause impaired kidney filtering and storage capacity of the bladder also shrink, these can lead vitality reduction and atrophy1.

Reproductive System

A sedentary lifestyle causes reduction of serum androgen levels. Researchers also reported that regular sexual activity assists in maintaining menstrual cycle length1.

Endocrine System

Physical exercise increases insulin binding sites on muscles. Physical exercise also improves the functionality of other endocrine glands including thyroid, adrenal and sex glands functioning1.

Physiological Regulatory Functioning

Inactivity of the body can cause reduction of bodily temperature and desynchronize circadian rhythms. Disuse related altered endocrinal functionality can cause immune system impairment1.

Sensory Functionality

Disuse can cause sensory deprivation and may interfere visual, auditory and taste acuity1.

Nervous System

Nervous system functioning is decreased with physical inactivity. Sympathomedullary system activity catecholamine secretion are reduced with physical activation.

Decrease sympathomedullary system activation can cause impaired physiological response against stimuli, whereas reduction of catecholamine secretion also causes impaired neuronal transmission1.

Risk Factors

Experts also reported certain disuse-related health risks.


Sedentary lifestyle often causes obesity. Obesity also increases the risk of disuse. Several health problems can arise due to obesity, such as hypertension, degenerative arthritis, and diabetes. Serum lipid values also affected by inactivation1.


Catecholamine secretion is involved in mental state activation. Decrease secretion of catecholamine causes depression1.

Disuse Syndrome Symptoms


Physical exercise is a primary management for Disuse Syndrome. Exercise has great value to maintain biological activity and to keep us healthy. Exercise can help to improve the mental status and prevent depression.

During exercise physical activity can manage the overall physiological system and avoid several health issues. Proper exercise posture and duration are important factors for balancing the energy.

Most of us lead a sedentary lifestyle and affected with disuse syndrome. To maintain the regularity some people prefer to join exercise classes, however, some can do their exercise at home also.

It is not important where we perform the exercise, but the correct exercise process and regularity are most important to get the benefits of the exercise.

Exercise is considered as a physical therapy, therefore it is important to take guidance from experts and the exercise plan is made according to the patient’s physiological requirement.

It also recommended that intensity and duration of exercise require increasing gradually with proper exercise planning. An otherwise sudden strenuous exercise program can cause harm to the muscular tissue8.


  1. Walter M. Bortz II. The Disuse Syndrome. West J Med. 1984 Nov; 141(5): 691–694. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1011199/
  2. Tomanek RJ, Lund DD: Degeneration of different types of skeletal muscle fibers. J Anat 1973; 116:395-407
  3. Mack PB, Montgomery KB: Study of nitrogen balance and creatine and creatinine excretion during recumbency and ambulation of five young adult males. Aerospace Med 1973; 44:739-746 5.
  4. Seregin MS, Popov IG, Lebedeva AN, et al: Nutrition and metabolism during prolonged hypodynamic problems. Kosm Biol 1964; 13:79-93
  5. Taylor HL, Erickson L, Henschel A, et al: The effect of bedrest in the blood volume of normal young men. Am J Physiol 1945; 144:227-232
  6. Saltin B, Blomquist G, Mitchell J, et al: Response to exercise after bedrest and after training: A longitudinal study of adaptive changes in oxygen transport and composition. Circulation 1978; 33(suppl): 1-78
  7. Feldman EJ, Dowling RH, McNaughton J, et al: Effects of oral versus intravenous nutrition on intestinal adaptation after small bowel resection in the dog. Gastroenterology 1976; 70:712-719
  8.  William W. Deardorff. Avoiding the Disuse Syndrome: The Why, Where, and What of Exercise. http://www.spine-health.com/blog/avoiding-disuse-syndrome-why-where-and-what-exercise

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