Tag Archives: Type V GSD

Warmup Exercises Can Dramatically Reduce the Chances of Injury from McArdle’s Disease
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DISCLAIMER: This is not professional medical advice, but simply anecdotal information shared by an individual with McArdle’s disease.  Seek guidance from your informed physician before beginning an exercise regimen if you have McArdle’s disease.

If you have McArdle’s disease, whether you were diagnosed recently or years ago chances are you have known for a long time that something was quite wrong with your muscles.  Perhaps as a result you’ve come to avoid exercise altogether or find yourself in a more sedentary lifestyle than you would like.  If so, you’re like me.

Ironic as it may seem, exercise itself may be in fact the most effective treatment I’ve encountered for coping with McArdle’s disease.  The physiological responses of the body to exercise, which include:

  • Release of growth hormone by the pituitary gland to stimulate growth of bone, muscle and connective tissue
  • Improved circulation
  • Improved natural regulation of blood glucose levels
…seem to make “blasting” a lot less likely (“blasting” being the painful cramping that can also cause elevated blood protein levels, as well as a high fever and a day in bed in agony.)  It stands to reason that the body’s response to exercise works to “stave off” or partially mitigate the circumstances from which injury-causing failure episodes arise.
Consider the following.  Improved muscular and connective tissue strength equip the body with a higher “taxing” threshold for brief anaerobic motions such as squatting, bending over, lifting things from the car or to a shelf, or even carrying laundry.  Improved circulation equips muscle cells individually with more ready access to blood-borne substrates such as fatty acids and blood sugar.  Blood sugar levels, of course, through exercise and prudent dietary choices are less likely to experience devastating peaks and valleys.  (People with McArdle’s disease are probably very attuned to their blood sugar levels, as only brief moderate exercise allows them to experience exactly how much or how little energy their muscles have access to at the cellular level.)
Speaking for myself, I know that if I get up from my desk and go sprint around the yard with my dog, I’m likely to feel it and have to stop lest I incur a muscle injury.  However, there are days when I have extended endurance and feel markedly stronger which are preceded by periods of diligent, careful exercise involving extended warm-up periods. ?
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Why Warmup is So Important for People with McArdle’s Disease
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Once I’m warmed up, I’m able to jog longer or run up and down the basketball court a little easier, or climb more stairs, or move from one airport terminal to another and keep up with my companions.  I can do this without the fear that failure – which, if the limits are pushed, is ALWAYS inevitable – will result in a painful “blasting” episode.  As such, this exercise I’m able to experience without anxiety about falling down or cramping is likely as good for my body as it is for any normal person.  Walking, jogging, hiking, biking – all in moderation, using common sense, with careful warmup – I can pull them off.

Relevant links:

Warmup Exercises Can Dramatically Reduce Your Chances of Injury from McArdle’s Disease
 

DISCLAIMER: This is not professional medical advice, but simply anecdotal information shared by an individual with McArdle’s disease.  Seek guidance from your informed physician before beginning an exercise regiment if you have McArdle’s disease.

If you have McArdle’s disease, whether you were diagnosed recently or years ago chances are you have known for a long time that something was quite wrong with your muscles.  Perhaps as a result you’ve come to avoid exercise altogether or find yourself in a more sedentary lifestyle than you would like.

Ironic as it may seem, exercise itself may be in fact the most effective treatment I’ve encountered for coping with McArdle’s disease.  The physiological responses of the body to exercise, which include:

  • Release of growth hormone by the pituitary gland to stimulate growth of bone, muscle and connective tissue
  • Improved circulation
  • Improved natural regulation of blood glucose levels
…seem to make “blasting” a lot less likely (“blasting” being the painful cramping that can also cause elevated blood protein levels, as well as a high fever and a day in bed in agony.)  It stands to reason that the body’s response to exercise works to “stave off” or partially mitigate the circumstances from which injury-causing failure episodes arise.
Consider the following.  Improved muscular and connective tissue strength equip the body with a higher “taxing” threshold for brief anaerobic motions such as squatting, bending over, lifting things from the car or to a shelf, or even carrying laundry.  Improved circulation equips muscle cells individually with more ready access to blood-borne substrates such as fatty acids and blood sugar.  Blood sugar levels, of course, through exercise and prudent dietary choices are less likely to experience devastating peaks and valleys.  (People with McArdle’s disease are probably very attuned to their blood sugar levels, as only brief moderate exercise allows them to experience exactly how much or how little energy their muscles have access to at the cellular level.)
Speaking for myself, I know that if I get up from my desk and go sprint around the yard with my dog, I’m likely to feel it and have to stop lest I incur a muscle injury.  However, there are days when I have extended endurance and feel markedly stronger which are preceded by periods of diligent, careful exercise involving extended warm-up periods.  
 
Why Warmup is So Important for People with McArdle’s Disease
 
Once I’m warmed up, I’m able to jog longer or run up and down the basketball court a little easier, or climb more stairs, or move from one airport terminal to another and keep up with my companions.  I can do this without the fear that failure – which, if the limits are pushed, is ALWAYS inevitable – will result in a painful “blasting” episode.  As such, this exercise I’m able to experience without anxiety about falling down or cramping is likely as good for my body as it is for any normal person.  Walking, jogging, hiking, biking – all in moderation, using common sense, with careful warmup – I can pull them off.

Sources:

Muscle fatigue and weakness experienced during even moderately intense physical activity can in fact simply be caused by a lack of physical conditioning, but the human body is a robust machine that, when working properly, responds rapidly and efficiently to changing demands.  When muscle weakness is acute and to the point of failure (non-response), however, it is time to seek medical attention.

People with McArdle’s Disease may experience this type of muscle failure.  It is described in medical journals as “rapid onset muscle weakness and cramping,” but this doesn’t give a very clear description.  More accurately, it can be described as a diminished response from the active muscle group as a function of time.  For example, when someone with McArdle’s Disease tries jogging, their experience is more or less normal for anywhere between 10-30 seconds, depending on factors like incline, recent diet, physical condition, etc.  It is after this initial period that the individual with McArdle’s experiences an abrupt and rapid decrease in energy that is not so much about being “out of breath” as it is about muscles simply no longer responding.

I’ve put together a graphic representation of what this feels like.  Anyone with McArdle’s Disease knows that intense exercise elicits an exponential decrease in energy in a matter of seconds, usually well under one minute:

This is a rough, non-scientific graph that is rather subjective but nonetheless probably an accurate graphical description of the sensation of McArdle’s Disease symptoms.  The exponential curve representing energy capacity as a function of time during intense exercise corresponds to what I know about reaction rates; i.e., there is a fixed concentration of phosphocreatine as well as creatine kinase in the cell atany given moment, so as ATP generated from glucose metabolism is the limiting factor in the overall picture, as the concentration of phosphocreatine (which is used up creating ATP for immediate use) drops dramatically, so too does the “reaction rate” of physical energy available from the active muscle group.

Muscle fatigue and weakness experienced as a result of McArdle’s Disease seems to vary according to the intensity of the activity.  Walking on flat ground, for example, apparently has an energy demand per unit time that is low enough to allow the cell to overcome the obstacle in the traditional energy pathway and create enough energy per unit time to permit the continued activity.  Some physicians speculate that individuals with McArdle’s Disease can experience a “2nd wind” phenomenon following warm-up as a result of adaptive measures the body takes in response to physical activity.  In any event, between walking and jogging there seems to be a rather pronounced drop-off in energy per unit time.  Speaking for myself, I can tell you that no amount of conditioning to date has allowed me to completely overcome the dramatic drop in muscle energy which results from taxing activities such as jogging or climbing stairs.  Walking, however, is a different story.  The graph below compares the sensation of performing these activities with McArdle’s Disease:

As the graphic indicates, walking may elicit some pain and weakness initially but with calculated persistence, this is overcome and walking is easily sustainable for long periods of time.  I am even able to ascend moderately large hills, following such a warm up and using efficient “management” of the terrain and my energy.

The purpose of this page is to give physicians or other health professionals as clear a picture as is possible of what the symptoms of this disease are like.  The more is known about the disease, the better the quality of life for those with it.