7 Ways Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Can Help SMA Patients

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by Wendy Henderson |

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Physical therapy and rehabilitation programs are vital for the ongoing care of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) patients. Many of the exercises can be done in the home by the caregiver and others will need trained physiotherapists to assess the progression of the disease.

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We’ve put together a list of ways physical therapy and rehabilitation can benefit SMA patients with help from the Spinal Muscular Atrophy Clinical Research Centre at Columbia University.

Improves Muscle and Bone Strength

Rehabilitation and physical therapy can help SMA patients improve their bone strength and in some cases, it can help slow down the rate of muscle deterioration. This can be done by weight-bearing, either standing alone or using a harness or other device to help.

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Keeps Joints Moving

SMA patients who are wheelchair bound may suffer from contracture–where the joints become stiff through lack of movement. Motion exercises along with splints or braces may stop this from progressing or reduce symptoms. Keeping the joint moving will also improve the patient’s range of motion.

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Pain Management

Many SMA patients will suffer from joint or muscle pain and movement exercises can assist with providing relief.

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Improves Posture

SMA patients will often develop a curvature of the spine (scoliosis), exercises can be useful to help improve posture and to work alongside any surgery or brace device to correct the problem.

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Reduces Spasticity

Stretching and gentle movement may ease the symptoms of spasticity, where the muscles contract and tighten. Water therapy is very good for children who have a very limited range of movement.

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Improves Circulation

Movement of the arms and legs in physical therapy will help to improve circulation ensure that enough oxygen gets to all of the muscles around the body.

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Aids Eating

Facial exercises may be useful to help SMA patients who have difficulty with chewing or swallowing. They can also be incorporated into speech therapy.

Understand more about the four types of SMA with our guide. 

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