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Muscular Dystrophy & Other Conditions in Children and How Physical Therapy Can Help 

Children that suffer from muscular dystrophy require special attention to ensure that their muscles can gain some strength over time. This is a difficult challenge. If you are a parent concerned with a child with muscular dystrophy, you likely have a lot of questions about what can be done to help your child and what the long-term outlook is. 

These are complicated questions, but the advancements and research in the field of physical therapy mean that there have been improvements in the treatment of this difficult condition. 

So what should you know as a parent about how physical therapy can help your child with muscular dystrophy? 

What is the Prevalence of Muscular Dystrophy in Children? 

The term muscular dystrophy is a general term that includes several genetic disorders. Even though there are different types of this disorder, it generally means some type of loss of muscle mass or wasting of muscle. This degeneration progresses at a different rate depending on what form of muscular dystrophy is present. 

According to recent studies from the journal Pediatrics, the two most prevalent types of muscular dystrophy found that about 1 in every 5,000 boys aged between 5 and 9 years old have some form of these physical disorders. The studies showed that boys are more often affected by the condition than girls. The most common types are Duchenne muscular dystrophy and Becker muscular dystrophy.

How is this Condition Diagnosed? 

This may vary from child to child as symptoms and issues can emerge at different ages. Diagnosis of muscular dystrophy requires a thorough physical examination and diagnostic testing. Because these are typically hereditary disorders a full prenatal history might be required to find out if any other members of the family have a history. 

Several diagnostic tests for the condition include: 

  • Blood tests. These are genetic blood tests that detect traces of the condition in the blood. 
  • Muscle biopsy. This is a small sample of muscle tissue taken and observed through a microscope. 
  • Electromyogram (EMG). This test will check if the muscle weakness is the result of muscle disintegration  or nerve damage 
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). This test measures the heart to show abnormal rhythms and detect damage to the heart muscle. 

The Wide Reach of Physical Therapy for Children 

Physical therapy for children treats a wide variety of conditions and disorders including Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, Muscular Dystrophy, and others. The role of the physical therapist is to assist how a physical exercise or manual therapy regimen can benefit the strengthening and development of muscles. 

In general, a physical therapist will work with your child to: 

  • Increase and improve mobility 
  • Restore and develop function in muscles that may be lacking 
  • Ease pain
  • Prevent the deterioration of muscle and the worsening of physical disabilities
  • Improve overall health and wellness

Children that suffer from muscular dystrophy will have a higher chance of falling and hurting themselves. At the same time, they will struggle to do normal day-to-day activities.  A physical therapist can help a child by: 

  • Adaptive equipment and devices: Physical therapists have a wide range of tools at their disposal they can use to improve the balance and motor skills of some children. They can also better train children to walk with walkers, use their wheelchairs, and become all-around more mobile and dependent. If children are using braces, a therapist will also work with them to improve their ability to move using this equipment. 
  • Regimented exercise: A physical therapist will find exercise regimens that will strengthen the muscles and improve motor skills. Physical therapists are movement experts that tailor exercise programs to target specific muscle groups. When they work with children suffering from muscular dystrophy, they can help a child better understand their condition, learn to move on their own, and help muscle mass and muscle development. 
  • Developmental skills: A physical therapist will teach children how to jump, crawl, climb, and eat. If a child struggles with activities like eating, jaw, and face exercises will help work these muscles and can make a significant difference in the lives of children. 

Physical Therapy for Children Helps Children Overcome Major Challenges, Learn More

Want to learn more about how physical therapy can help your child with muscular dystrophy improve? Various approaches and modalities will get your child moving, learning about their mobility, and more. 

Call Pasitos Clinic today for more information.

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