Physical Therapy for Muscular Dystrophy
Muscular dystrophy (MD) is a group of genetic diseases that causes the muscles to weaken and eventually break down over time. Muscular dystrophy often affects the skeletal muscles that control movement. There are different types of muscular dystrophy that may vary in symptoms, severity, rate of progression, and the age that symptoms may develop. While there is no cure for muscular dystrophy, there are treatments and therapies available to help slow the progression of the disease. Most cases of muscular dystrophy are caused by an inherited genetic mutation, however, some cases occur spontaneously with no evidence of a genetic link.
While there is no cure for muscular dystrophy, there are several treatment options available to manage the symptoms of the condition and maximize quality of life. Treatment for muscular dystrophy may include medication such as corticosteroids, to help improve muscle strength and slow the progression of muscle weakness. Physical therapy may be effective at providing exercise to keep joints flexible and improve mobility.
Physical therapy can help to prevent deformities, increase mobility, and keep muscles strong and flexible in patients with muscular dystrophy. An individualized physical therapy program is often developed to meet the specific needs of the patient. A physical therapy program may include:
- Passive stretching to increase joint flexibility and prevent contractures
- Range of motion exercises to increase muscle strength
- Exercises to prevent muscle atrophy
- Deep breathing exercises to keep the lungs fully expanded
- Electrical muscle stimulation
A physical therapist may also work with patients through certain exercises and positions to correct their posture. This type of therapy is used to counter the muscle weakness, contractures, and spinal irregularities that may force individuals with MD into uncomfortable positions. Assistive devices may also be used for support and to distribute weight evenly, and help the spine and legs to straighten. Physical therapists may also assist patients with using other assistive devices such as wheelchairs, splints and braces, and other orthopedic devices to help maintain mobility.