Muscular dystrophy (MD) is not just one disease, but a generic term that covers more than thirty genetic disorders sharing the characteristics of progressive skeletal muscle degeneration and weakness. The severity, progression and distribution of the symptoms as well as age of onset, are some of the things that separate one form of MD from another.
There are four primary forms of muscular dystrophy. The most common is Duchenne MD and it affects mostly males, with the initial onset at between 3-5 years of age. It is a rapidly progressing form of the disease and ultimately results in an inability to walk and the need for a respirator to assist in breathing. Becker MD is less severe and less aggressive than Duchenne, affecting mostly older boys and young men. Landouzy-Dejerine MD usually affects those in their teens and can have a wide variety of symptoms. Mytonic MD or Steinert’s disease is most commonly found in adults. It is typified by muscle spasms, cataracts, heart related problems and endocrine imbalances.
The most common forms of muscular dystrophy occur because of problems with dystrophin, which is a protein in the body needed for muscles to function normally. A deficiency or absence of dystrophin has a major impact on the normal functioning of muscle movement and can result in the characteristic spasms usually associated with MD.
Currently there is no way to stop the progression of any form of muscular dystrophy. Any treatments prescribed are used to ease or reduce some of the symptoms such as joint deformities, and to assist in retaining mobility for as long as possible. Drugs, such as corticosteroids, are often used to help slow muscle degeneration, and anticonvulsants help to calm muscle activity and reduce seizures.
Regular massage therapy, in conjunction with traditional therapies, can also help in reducing the severity of muscle spasms, relax tight muscles and restore some range of motion. It can also help to ease some of the pain associated with MD.
Learn more about how massage therapy can help treat the symptoms of muscular dystrophy.