According to the American Physical Therapy Association, Muscular dystrophy (MD) is a group of genetic disorders caused by a change or mutation in one of the genes located in the DNA within human cells. It is not caused by an injury or harmful activity. MD causes progressive muscle weakness and a decrease in muscle mass (atrophy) over time. There are at least 9 types of muscular dystrophy but 4 of the most common include Duchenne, Becker, Myotonic, and Fascioscapulohumeral. Signs of muscular dystrophy include weakness, muscle atrophy, delayed motor development or abnormal movement strategies (in children). The condition is diagnosed by a physician who may utilize blood tests, genetic testing, or muscle biopsies in addition to a physical examination.
How can physical therapy help?
A physical therapist will ask several questions about the history of a patient’s MD, how they are currently managing it, and how it impacts their daily life. We will then perform a comprehensive examination to determine how this condition is affecting overall physical mobility. Measurements of strength, joint mobility, balance, gait, and core strength will be performed. In children, a more detailed assessment of motor development may be performed including tasks such as sitting, crawling, getting up to stand, and walking. Treatment will be customized to an individual patient’s needs and may include stretching activities, strengthening activities for the legs, arms, and core, breathing activities, gait and balance training, as well as aerobic conditioning to maximize endurance.