What is it ?
Muscular dystrophy refers to a group of inherited muscle disorders characterised by progressive muscle weakness. It is caused by a genetic abnormality which affects the muscle structure and function which over time leads to increasing disability. Although there are over one hundred types of muscular dystrophy the most common types that usually present in childhood are:
- Duchenne muscular dystrophy – affects mainly boys and is the most severe and common form of muscular dystrophy. Symptoms are usually apparent by age three
- Becker muscular dystrophy – milder and less common than Duchenne’s. Symptoms may not present until age ten or eleven
What are the symptoms of muscular dystrophy ?
As there are many types of muscular dystrophies there is a wide variation in symptoms, however some of the likely symptoms are:
- Progressive muscle weakness and wasting usually in the lower limbs first causing problems with standing, walking, climbing stairs and participating in sport etc.
- Gowers sign (getting to stand using hands on knees)
- Muscle cramps and spasm
- Poor balance, frequent falls
- Altered walking pattern
- Behavioural difficulties
- Respiratory problems
What can we do
Physiotherapy for muscular dystrophy aims to maximise a person’s quality of life and independence for as long as possible and may include:
- Exercises to maintain joint range of movement and soft tissue length
- Strengthening exercises to maintain muscle strength for as long as possible
- Advice regarding appropriate mobility aids and equipment to maintain independence
- Anticipating and minimising secondary complications that may occur
- Providing support with respiratory problems to maintain a clear chest
- Referral to other health professionals such as occupational therapists if appropriate
- Liaison with family and carers on safe manual handling techniques
Occupational Therapy for muscular dystrophy aims to maximise a person’s quality of life and independence for as long as possible and may include:
- Advice regarding appropriate mobility aids, environmental modifications and equipment to maintain independence at home and school
Anticipating and minimising secondary complications that may occur
Liaison with family and carers on safe manual handling techniques
What you can do
There are a number of agencies and support groups for children and their families who are affected by muscular dystrophy. It is important to contact these groups to be aware of the types of support available. In addition, giving your child the opportunity to be physically active within their limits is of great importance both physically and emotionally.