Physical Therapy: Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Management

Physical Therapy: Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Management

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The condition Spinal Muscular (Muscle) Atrophy is an autosomal recessive hereditary disease that is manifested with progressive decreased muscle tone & weakness. This weakness is greater closer to the spine than distally.

Physical Therapy: Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Management

Hello, I’m Dean Erie, a PT. As an Orthopedic/Neuro practicing therapist for about 30 yrs, I must admit that I haven’t had much awareness of this condition, mostly my clients/patients present to my clinic with various spinal, joint, & other soft tissue issues & can verbalize their complaints & other symptoms.

This particular condition as a Neuro condition that presents even before birth with the baby while in the womb presenting with less movement & post partum they continue to have difficulty with the Normal infant developmental landmarks such as rolling over or holding their head up (STNR). According to people a lot smarter than me, there are 4 types of SMA, (they were nice & labeled them I, II, III, IV), The severity is inverse to the Roman numerals, that is SMA I onset is the most severe, occurring at birth (or before) & up to 6 months, life expectancy is the shortest when diagnosed at this age. The later the onset or awareness of the signs/symptoms, then generally the longer the life expectancy.

So, for the me, a practicing Orthopedic PT, I don’t see this particular condition at all or rarely. But that does not mean I shouldn’t keep my eyes & ears open for the signs (or verbal symptoms from parents) regarding their child’s condition. If they’ve not been already diagnosed by a Pediatrician/Neurologist then the Type III, or IV conditions might have slipped thru. Then it is up to me to look for the proximal spinal weakness issues; it could be ‘’clumsiness, falling, fatigue, trouble climbing stairs”.   You have to be thinking possible some Muscular Dystrophy issues, (in my day it was Duchene’s MD), but being aware of SMA, should cause all therapists to continue to keep an open mind about all the various possibilities that can be the root cause of “Johnny’s stumbling or fatigue.. Or Mary’s inability to climb stairs or loss of balance.”

All PT’s, need to be aware of all possible causations of their client’s conditions; “just keep an open mind & certainly discuss with your colleagues to get feedback from them”. That is one of the best things with our Profession; we share our knowledge, experience, & our general willingness to help others.

– Dean



Dean Erie

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