Estes Echo

Disuse Atrophy

In the fall of 1972, I was a senior in high school and a running back for the football team. In the third game of the season, I was injured in a play in which my left hip was dislocated. Once I had been treated at Baptist Hospital in Memphis, the course of healing was to stay flat on my back, with my left leg in traction for six weeks. It was at that time I learned what the words “disuse atrophy” meant. After laying in bed for weeks and with the lack of using or exercising my leg, the muscles in my leg weakened and shrunk in size. Once my mobility did return, it took much effort and regular exercise to regain my leg strength.

As I consider disuse atrophy, I cannot help but apply this concept to spiritual things. It seems that just as muscles have the ability to develop atrophy, so does our spiritual life. Failure to exercise our minds in spiritual matters, leads to spiritual disuse atrophy. The Hebrews writer in chapter 5, verses 11 and following, mentions to the readers that their spiritual growth was not what it should be. They were not equipped to be teachers of God’s word as they should have been, instead they had allowed their spiritual growth to wane. In other words, spiritually, they suffered disuse atrophy.

As we begin this new year, evaluate your spiritual life and if you discover you are suffering from disuse atrophy, keep in mind that just as with muscle atrophy, spiritual atrophy can be reversed with spiritual exercise and improved spiritual nutrition.

–Mark Scott