About Neuromuscular conditions

Neuromuscular conditions affect the nerves that control your voluntary muscles. Voluntary muscles are the ones you can control, like in your arms and legs. Your nerve cells, also called neurons, send the messages that control these muscles. When the neurons become unhealthy or die, communication between your nervous system and muscles breaks down. As a result, your muscles weaken and waste away. The weakness can lead to twitching, cramps, aches and pains, and joint and movement problems (Medline Plus 2011). There are many different types of neuromuscular conditions including;

  • Muscular Dystrophy (MD) is a genetic (inherited) condition that gradually causes the muscles to weaken. This leads to an increasing level of disability. It is is caused by mutations (changes) in the genes that are responsible for the structure and functioning of a person’s muscles. These mutations cause changes in the muscle fibres, which interfere with the muscles’ ability to function. Over time, this causes increasing disability. There are more than 30 types of muscular dystrophy, each with slightly different symptoms. Not all types of muscular dystrophy cause severe disability. Some of the more common muscular dystrophy’s are listed below; (NHS Choice 2011)
    • Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy
    • Becker Muscular Dystrophy
    • Myotonic Muscular Dystrophy
    • Limb Girdle Muscular dystrophy
  • Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) causes the motor neurones in a certain area of the spinal cord to deteriorate. This results in progressive muscle wasting and loss of ability to move parts of the body.
  • Myasthenia Gravis literally means ‘grave muscle weakness’. The condition can affect any muscles that you can control voluntarily. Muscles that you cannot control voluntarily, such as the heart muscles, are not affected. Myasthenia gravis most commonly affects the muscles that control eye and eyelid movement, facial expression, chewing, swallowing and talking, and the muscles in the arms and legs (NHS Choice 2011).

Many neuromuscular conditions are genetic, which means they run in families or there is a mutation in your genes. Sometimes, an immune system disorder can cause them. Most of them have no cure. The goal of treatment is to improve symptoms, increase mobility and lengthen life.

How can physiotherapy help your child?

The aim of physiotherapy input is to improve muscle strength, balance and function. As neuromuscular conditions are often progressive it is really important to maintain postural alignment and joint integrity and this can be achieved through equipment and therapy programmes. At Gateway Physiotherapy we can carry out a detailed assessment and provide you with and deliver a comprehensive treatment programme that is tailored to your child’s individual needs. If required we can offer you advice about appropriate equipment and orthotics to compliment a therapy programme and ensure postural alignment and joint integrity is maintained.

For more information and support please visit Muscular Dystrophy Campaign and www.smatrust.org