Muscular dystrophy is a progressive and severely debilitating disease that affects one in 3,600 to 6,000 live male births. Although there is no cure for muscular dystrophy, an osteopathic examination can lead to an early diagnosis, which may minimize morbidity and maximize lifespan.
In a recent article in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, Christopher Carls, OMS III, and Predrag Krajacic, MD, of the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine review the most common form of muscular dystrophy, Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).
“Muscular dystrophy is typically diagnosed when patients are about 5 years old, however caregivers often see telltale signs such as gross motor delay and muscle weakness a year before they bring their concerns to the physician,” says Dr. Krajacic.
“The osteopathic structural examination can reveal tissue texture changes and somatic dysfunctions that can potentially indicate muscular dystrophy and inform primary care physicians as to which diagnostic tests are needed.”
Improving the time to diagnosis can add years to the patients’ lives. An untreated patient with DMD has an average lifespan of 19 years, according to Dr Krajacic, “but a treated patient can typically expect to live 20 additional years.”
Dr. Krajacic says osteopathic primary care physicians can also make an impact on care and outcomes in patients with muscular dystrophy.
Although more research is needed regarding the effectiveness of osteopathic manipulative treatment in managing muscular dystrophy, the authors note that OMT may address some of the specific consequences of the structural and musculoskeletal dysfunctions that are common in patients with DMD, such as low back pain and pneumonia.
Read the full article, which further outlines diagnostic tools, pharmacologic treatment options, and interprofessional care in the June issue of the JAOA.