If this condition persists after the age of 35, it proves to be very difficult for the muscles to retrieve their normal state of activity and therefore, the risk of paralysis becomes much higher. Alessandro Placido, a 29 year old Italian, tells an amazing story about how regular physical activity helped him overcome muscle fiber atrophy.
When he was 22 years old, after abandoning profession football, Alessandro started gaining weight because of poor nutrition and lack of physical activity. For 4 years, excessive and harmful dieting caused him to continuously lose and regain weight, destroying his metabolism. One day, his body simply collapsed because the muscles could not continue withholding the stress of changing weight and started to atrophy. After losing the strength in his limbs, even simple tasks such as driving a car became a challenge for his body. He was bound to live with constant pain in his spinal column, feeling his muscles “burning”. During the following years, Alessandro visited multiple doctors and experts with the hope of finding a remedy, tried different cures and medicines, and went through lengthy and useless therapies. Every time, he received the same diagnosis: the patient doesn’t have any abnormalities or diseases. Although traditional medicine was powerless against the disease, bringing much suffering, Alessandro, having a difficult path, was able to return to normal life. But first things first.
His first doctor diagnosed a “severe hernia” and recommended a series of carbon dioxide laser therapy sessions at a cost of 150 Euros per session. Still, the pain didn’t go away. Another doctor was convinced that the pain was caused by the “myofascial pain syndrome” and prescribed multiple anti-inflammatory medicines such as Lidocaine, Muscoril, Toradal. A podiatrist recommended that he get orthopedic insoles, suggesting that he might have a potential foot posture problem. “Instead of solving the problem, they just made me spend more money”, says Alessandro. Another doctor sent him to see a physiotherapist, where he went through a long series of useless and costly therapies. On the contrary, the pain increased even more. On three different occasions, Alessandro suffered violent heart attacks and was rushed to the hospital. The doctors always said the same thing: “There is nothing wrong with you, you don’t have any disorders”. He finally decided to end his quest in the medical field after one of the doctors offered him to prescribe psychiatric drugs. “They believed that I was a hypochondriac. Instead, I was in a terrible physical and moral situation. We simply didn’t know what to do”, says Alessandro.
“One day, I got really desperate and I decided to try a different approach. I remember that day very well. I was convinced that the problem was in my muscles, so I found a gym and went there to speak with a personal trainer. I just had to try it out”, says Alessandro. That day, he met the Di Giacomo brothers, Paolo and Antonio, former Powerlifting champions, who have dedicated their lives to weightlifting and bodybuilding since 1976. In 2004, as part of the WNPF (World Natural Powerlifting Federation), their team won the European Powerlifting Championship and then the World Powerlifting Championship in 2007. “At first, I wanted to just turn around and leave. But I changed my mind when I met Paolo who was able to understand my problem. He told me that I might have had muscular atrophy”, remembers Alessandro. Before starting the workout, they went to see a chiropractor, Dr. Renato Barbacane, who confirmed the diagnosis. Because his body structure had already changed, Alessandro had to start the training program as soon as possible, otherwise he could become paralyzed. Losing and regaining weight, combined with bad eating habits, altered his metabolism. “I was eating too much and developed food intolerance, which I didn’t know about”, testifies Placido. “When I met Alessandro, I advised him to begin with a special program to warm up his muscles and some chiropractic treatment for his back, before starting the actual workout program”, says Dr. Renato Barbacane, chiropractor and researcher at Gabriele D’Annunzio University of Chieti.
Paolo and Antonio Di Giacomo came up with a balanced diet and a slow, progressive training program, intended to activate “carbonized” muscles. Proper nutrition and long walks were supposed to help Alessandro overcome the pain caused by the accumulation of lactic acid. “He had trouble breathing, couldn’t sleep at night because of his posture and had very little strength”, remember the Di Giacomo brothers. “Right from the beginning, they told me that it won’t be easy and that it all depended on me”, responds Alessandro.
“Five or six months later, there were times when I doubted the success of our enterprise. He was so willing, insistent, zealous, but we simply didn’t see any results”, admits Paolo. Willpower was the key element in this quest. Every day, Alessandro trained for two hours, strictly following the workout program, despite pain and agony. It took over a year to see the first results. At that point, Alessandro decided to gradually stop taking the medicines he was prescribed years ago, when the doctors were convinced that endorphins played a major role and caused the pain. It took two and a half years for his muscles to start retrieving their normal state of activity.
Now Alessandro knows about the dangers of too frequent and rapid changes in weight in the absence of regular physical activity and unbalanced nutrition. This problem is very difficult to detect, but it can be solved. And the example of Alessandro – the best proof of this. Having lived through the incompetence of doctors and specialists, he found an opportunity to deal with his illness. This experience became “a personal journey” for Alessandro, who has, since, almost completely recovered. “It’s not easy when such things happen to you, but it’s important to fight until the end, with all your heart and soul”, concludes Alessandro.