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How Can Physiotherapy Aid Those with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy?


Physiotherapy plays a crucial role in managing Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), a genetic disorder known for its progressive muscle weakness and degeneration. Physiotherapy in Sherwood Park plays a crucial role in managing the symptoms of DMD, enhancing quality of life, and promoting functional independence for as long as possible.

What is Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy?

Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) is a genetic disorder characterized by progressive muscle weakness and degeneration. It primarily affects boys and typically becomes apparent in early childhood. 

Symptoms include difficulty walking, frequent falls, trouble getting up from a seated or prone position, enlarged calf muscles, and eventually, muscle wasting affecting the arms, legs, and trunk. DMD also impacts the heart and respiratory muscles, leading to cardiac and respiratory complications over time. 

This debilitating condition severely impairs mobility, independence, and quality of life, often necessitating the use of mobility aids and respiratory support as the disease progresses.

How Does Physiotherapy Assist With Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy?

Physiotherapy clinics are a cornerstone of comprehensive care for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), offering various interventions to address progressive muscle weakness and associated complications. Here’s how physiotherapy aids individuals with DMD:

Maintaining Muscle Function:

Physiotherapists develop tailored exercise programs to preserve muscle strength and flexibility, helping delay muscle deterioration. Here are some commonly used exercises:

Active Range of Motion (ROM) Exercises:

These exercises entail moving joints through their full range of motion actively, without assistance. This helps maintain flexibility and prevents contractures. Examples include shoulder circles, leg lifts, and ankle pumps.

Strengthening Exercises:

While individuals with DMD have progressive muscle weakness, targeted strengthening exercises can help maintain muscle function for as long as possible. Low-resistance exercises using bands or light weights may be used, focusing on major muscle groups such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and upper extremities.

Improving Respiratory Function:

Physiotherapists employ breathing exercises, chest physiotherapy techniques, and respiratory aids to optimize lung function and prevent respiratory complications.

Breathing Exercises:

Various breathing exercises are employed to improve respiratory muscle strength, lung capacity, and overall lung function. These exercises include:

  • Deep breathing exercises: Instruct the individual to take slow, deep breaths to fully inflate the lungs and increase oxygen intake.
  • Pursed-lip breathing: Instructing the individual to breathe in gradually through the nose and exhale gently through pursed lips, which helps to control breathing rate, maintain airway pressure, and improve gas exchange.

Chest Physiotherapy Techniques:

These techniques aim to improve chest wall mobility, clear airway secretions, and enhance ventilation. They include:

  • Manual chest wall mobilization: Hands-on techniques performed by a physiotherapist to stretch and mobilize the chest wall, improving chest wall compliance and lung expansion.

Enhancing Mobility:

Physiotherapy in Sherwood Park utilizes interventions such as gait training, balance exercises, and prescribing mobility aids to help individuals with DMD maintain mobility and independence.

Gait Training:

Gait training exercises focus on optimizing walking patterns and mobility. Depending on the individual’s abilities, gait training may include:

  • Supported walking: Practicing walking with assistance from a caregiver, using aids such as parallel bars, a walker, or a gait belt for stability and support.
  • Assistive devices: Prescribing appropriate mobility aids such as orthoses (braces), ankle-foot orthotics (AFOs), or powered mobility devices (e.g., scooters or wheelchairs) to facilitate safe and efficient mobility.

Balance Exercises:

Balance training is essential for preventing falls and maintaining joint mobility. Balance exercises may include:

  • Core strengthening: Strengthening the core muscles (abdominals, back, and hips) to improve stability and posture, which can enhance balance and mobility.

Supporting Posture:

Physiotherapists work to maintain proper alignment and prevent spinal deformities like scoliosis through posture training and orthotic support.

Postural Correction Exercises:

Specific exercises are designed to improve postural alignment and address asymmetries that may contribute to spinal deformities like scoliosis. These exercises may include:

  • Side-bending stretches: Stretching the muscles along the sides of the torso to address asymmetrical muscle tightness and improve spinal alignment.

Orthotic Support:

Physiotherapists may recommend orthotic devices such as braces or orthopedic inserts to support proper spinal alignment and prevent the progression of spinal deformities like scoliosis. These orthotic interventions are tailored to the individual’s needs and may include:

  • Spinal braces: External braces are designed to provide support and stabilization to the spine, particularly in cases of scoliosis.
  • Shoe inserts or orthotics: Customized inserts placed inside shoes to correct foot alignment and support proper posture.

Managing Pain:

Physiotherapy techniques such as massage, heat therapy, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation can alleviate pain associated with muscle weakness and contractures.

Massage Therapy:

This manipulates tissues to relax, boost circulation, and ease muscle tension, using techniques like effleurage and deep tissue massage, which are utilized to alleviate pain and enhance flexibility in individuals with muscle weakness and contractures. It promotes relaxation, mobility, and comfort, aiding in managing discomfort associated with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS):

TENS therapy employs mild electrical impulses via skin electrodes to block pain signals, offering relief for chronic conditions like muscle and neuropathic pain by reducing pain perception through neural modulation.

Joint Mobilization and Manipulation:

Physiotherapists apply joint mobilization and manipulation to enhance mobility and relieve stiffness by gently restoring normal movement patterns and alleviating discomfort through targeted manual therapy techniques.

Myofascial Release:

This technique aims to relieve tension and enhance flexibility by targeting the fascia, employing methods like gentle stretching and sustained pressure to restore tissue health and alleviate pain.

Moving Forward Together: 

Physiotherapy in Sherwood Park plays a pivotal role in the comprehensive management of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, offering tailored exercise programs and interventions aimed at preserving muscle strength, enhancing flexibility, and improving overall quality of life. Emerald Hills Physiotherapy in Sherwood Park helps address the evolving needs of individuals with DMD, promote functional independence, and optimize long-term outcomes. 


To experience these benefits firsthand, consider seeking a “physiotherapist near me” who specializes in neuromuscular conditions like Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. They can tailor a personalized therapy program to address your specific needs, guiding you on your path toward optimal health and mobility.

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