Until a complete cure is found, many of those dealing with spinal muscular atrophy along with any loved ones in their life will continue to look for better treatment options for this genetic neurological condition.
Although the FDA has approved two types of medications that can help with some of the symptoms in some age groups, they aren’t necessarily able to offer relief to everyone, including some older people who are trying to deal with the condition later in life. But one useful option is physical therapy.
The team at Accredited Home Care works with or has worked with several clients who suffer from spinal muscular atrophy, so we’re familiar with how the disease can affect the brain and body.
We are always happy to connect any clients with the skilled physical therapists and physical therapy assistants on our staff. Either position has extensive experience working with a variety of medical conditions, including spinal muscular atrophy.
Research has found that physical therapy is one treatment that has been found to offer value to people, starting with some immediate relief after a treatment. The physical therapist or physical therapist assistant can also create a series of exercises that a client can perform on a regular basis. These can further build up his or her strength and flexibility and begin to reverse some of the damage taking place in the brain and body.
Learning more about SMA
Whether you’re a physical therapist or a family member, it’s important to start learning about spinal muscular atrophy, which is often abbreviated as SMA.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke reports that at its basic level, SMA is a disease that decays certain motor neurons in the spinal cord and brain stem. The neurons are often the ones that control physical activity in the body, which can be general tasks like walking or speaking but can also affect the movements that control breathing and swallowing.
Without these neurons to tell the muscles what to do and when to move and send signals to the muscles, the affected muscles gradually become weaker until they stop working or move by themselves by twitching.
Motor neurons control movement through the whole body, which includes legs and feet, arms and hands, chest, throat, and tongue.
There are a variety of types of spinal muscular atrophy that affect people differently and at different ages. In some cases, it may cause general weakness in certain muscle groups. In others, the combination of muscles not working throughout the body, especially the lungs or throat, may cause people to have difficulties breathing and eventually death. It can also cause physical changes, such as a curved spine.
SMA is caused by a missing protein somewhere in certain people’s genetic code. It’s technically a mutation that controls certain motor neurons. It’s also considered the most common genetic-based cause of death in infants.
Researchers have identified four main types of SMA, starring with SMA 1. This one usually appears quickly in infants 6 months or less and can be seen as problems with moving limbs, breathing problems, or difficulties swallowing. This condition may disrupt normal childhood growth patterns especially around areas of walking and building certain movements. This particular type has a large number of deaths.
SMA Type II usually is noticed when someone is between 6 months old and 18 months old. It has similar commonly affected movement and motions as well as higher amounts of breathing problems. It can also lead to death before the teen years.
Type 3 is also something that children suffer from and can show up after 18 months. It can affect coordination and similar activities and usually begins with weaker arms and legs. Tremors or twitching is also possible. People with this condition may have fewer respiratory problems so fewer chances of it being fatal.
The fourth type is the one that is more common in adults and includes weakness in certain muscle groups and general deterioration.
The FDA has approved a few pharmaceutical options to slow some of the symptoms, including Spinraza/nusinersen and Evrsdi/risdiplam. Another product designed for young patients is Zolgensma, which is intended to correct damaged genes via a one-time injection.
Other medical professionals suggest that regulating diet can have a role in slowing the rate of muscle weakness.
Regular physical therapy is seen as another useful solution. This can strengthen muscles that the condition may try to weaken. Therapy may keep certain muscles moving on a regular basis that would normally be deteriorating.
Physical therapy can improve the range of motion of limbs that might have already been affected. It can also teach how to use certain assistive devices that may be needed, everything from a cane, walker, or orthotics to help with balance, a wheelchair, or a speech synthesizer for someone unable to speak anymore.
A physical therapist can also work with a client to teach different ways of walking and general mobility. They can also team with an occupational therapist to improve other skills.
Overall, because SMA touches so many lives, many people are interested in a cure or other options. For those who want to learn more, check out https://www.curesma.org/sma-awareness-month/ which gives details about SMA Awareness Month. This runs all through August although there are many events planned at the beginning of the month.