Muscular dystrophy is the name given to a group of genetically inherited diseases all characterized by progressive weakness and degeneration of muscles of the limbs (legs and hands), face, neck, shoulders, hips, heart, and diaphragm.

The age of onset of the disease can vary from childhood to adult. As the disease progresses, the weakened muscles make it difficult for patients to carry out everyday activities at home, school, or the workplace. Therefore, in addition to symptomatic treatments, occupational therapy can help train patients to carry out everyday tasks more efficiently. 

The role of the occupational therapist

An occupational therapist evaluates and suggests ways the patient can maintain better health and function as independently as possible by using self-care as well as work- and play-related activities. The occupational therapist can also train the patient in using any devices and mobility aids that might be required.

How the occupational therapist can help

An occupational therapist can help patients in various ways. They can:

  • collaborate with the healthcare team to implement programs specific to the patient’s disabilities;
  • suggest activities that can strengthen the weakened muscles to maintain independence;
  • recommend modifications for easy and safe access at home, school, or work, especially when using a wheelchair or a walker;
  • suggest ways that daily living activities such as eating, dressing, bathing, showering, shopping, and doing household chores can be performed by the patient on his or her own;
  • recommend appropriate equipment for self-care tasks, such as commode chairs, shower chairs, beds, and mobile arm supports;
  • Teach the use of arm slings or orthotic devices to support weak muscles in the wrists, arms, ankles, and shoulders to improve their function;
  • work with educational institutions or workplaces to identify ways the patient can carry on studying or working as independently as possible with easy and safe access;
  • recommend communication aids and devices such as computers to assist with school and work-related activities as well as social networking;
  • suggest the use of a corset or a body jacket to provide better support and balance to the spine in the case of scoliosis (abnormal curvature of the spine);
  • teach energy conservation techniques so that body movements are more efficient, which can help with fatigue;
  • identify ways to promote creativity and social activities that can boost the patient’s confidence.

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Muscular Dystrophy News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.