Pediatric Therapy to Prevent Muscular Dystrophy
For a parent, the only thing worse than facing a chronic health issue is seeing your child have to face one. Muscular dystrophy is a scary diagnosis; one that is typically filled with a lot of questions and uncertainty about the future. When faced with a chronic diagnosis like this, it is common to want to take a seat and wallow in the things that have gone wrong, but this is the wrong approach to take. Taking early steps to help your child succeed with pediatric physical therapy can make a huge difference in their quality of life as they age.
If you are facing a diagnosis of muscular dystrophy in your child, it is never too early to contact a pediatric physical therapist to learn more about the modes of support available to you.
Understanding Muscular Dystrophy
While the disease is among one of the most studied in the world, there is still so much about muscular dystrophy that the scientific community doesn’t understand. There is no cure, and there is no clear understanding as to why the disease develops. It is highly genetic, typically inherited through the male lines of the DNA, and impacts boys at an unprecedented rate. The disease is somewhat common, even in highly developed countries like the United States, with one out of every 4,000-6,000 boys born with the condition.
Muscular dystrophy causes muscle weakness throughout much of the body, often leading to complete loss of muscle mass over time. It most typically impacts the arms and legs to start, and then slowly starts to impact other muscle groups as time progresses. While there are some who are born with the disease who are never able to form enough muscle mass to walk in the first place, there are many more who lose the ability to move independently while they are still so young.
There is no cure for muscular dystrophy, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing that you can do about the disease. Working with a pediatric therapist can help you address the muscle loss early on. Certain practices in physical therapy are shown to actually help delay the progression of muscular dystrophy, helping children who have this diagnosis to have more time to be kids. This means more time to play, more time to explore, and more time to feel healthy and independent, as every child should.
Recognizing the Onset of Muscular Dystrophy
For most parents of children with muscular dystrophy, the diagnosis comes as a huge surprise. The condition is not commonly discussed until the child is between the ages of 3-5, which is when most children start to become more independent and begin attending school. At this time, there are certain signs that parents ought to be on the lookout for. These indicators could point to a problem such as muscular dystrophy, or they could be indications of lesser issues that would still benefit from pediatric treatment with physical therapy.
These indicators include:
- Reoccurring tumbles
- Frequent toe walking
- A slow run
- Waddling gait
Weakness in the hips and legs is the most common first sign of muscular dystrophy, though the weakness will eventually lead to other areas of the body, regardless of where it begins.
Working with a physical therapist can be helpful in providing additional support to muscle development. At first, intensive physical therapy can combat some of the muscle loss. The goal of pediatric physical therapy is to help children develop muscle strength to become as flexible, strong, and symmetrical as possible. The therapy will include a combination of exercises, stretches, and posture training, and may also extend to include additional treatment methods, like hydro-based therapy.
Physical therapy can be a tremendously helpful tool, especially in the face of a muscular dystrophy diagnosis. For more information, call us today and speak with our physical therapy team.