What is physiotherapy?
Physiotherapy, or physical therapy, is a treatment approach that aims to help patients maintain mobility and reduce pain through massage, exercise, education, and advice.
Patients should begin working with a physiotherapist as soon as possible after being diagnosed with muscular dystrophy.
How can physiotherapy help patients?
Physical therapists help children with muscular dystrophy manage complications, such as muscle weakness and contraction caused by disease progression.
Physical therapists identify areas of muscle weakness, and work with the child to keep their muscles as flexible and strong as possible. They can also teach stretching and muscle exercises that can be done at home, as well as make recommendations for physical education and accommodations at school.
Every child will have unique needs and may be affected differently by the disease. Physical therapist work with children, their parents, and their care team to develop a treatment plan customized to the child’s needs.
If orthotic devices such as braces are required, the physical therapist will work with the care team to find the right type of brace and ensure the child maintains as much mobility as possible for as long as possible.
Some patients may have trouble with daily tasks, like eating, due to muscle weakness or difficulties with swallowing. Physical therapy can identify exercises that help to strengthen throat, jaw and tongue muscles to address these problems.
Depending on the type of muscular dystrophy, physical therapists can help slow the loss of range of motion, muscle strength, daily function, and gait and posture. Physiotherapy may also help reduce the pain patients may be experiencing as a result of muscle weakness or cramping.
Physiotherapy in clinical trials
A survey of physiotherapy clinical trials was published in the journal PLOS One. The study examined the records of muscular dystrophy clinical trials going back to 1978. Almost all trials showed some improvement in patient outcomes as a result of physiotherapy.
However, because of small sizes of trial groups and their diverse populations, the survey failed to show any significant improvement in patient outcomes as a result of physiotherapy. Its authors recommended that a large, multi-center clinical trial be carried out to establish guidelines for physiotherapy in muscular dystrophy.
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