Nonsurgical Treatments for Arthrogryposis in Children
Doctors and therapists at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone offer a variety of nonsurgical treatments and assistive devices to help children with immobilized muscles and joints move more easily and perform everyday tasks, such as feeding, dressing, bathing, and writing. Arthrogryposis treatment during infancy or early childhood can improve flexibility and range of motion and help to strengthen muscles.
Physical and Occupational Therapy
Physical and occupational therapy are the most common treatments for babies and young children with arthrogryposis. Physical therapy helps children to manage problems that interfere with crawling, walking, climbing stairs, and participating in sports. Occupational therapy is aimed at improving a child’s ability to perform daily activities such as eating, grooming, and going to the bathroom.
When started early—even in newborns—these therapies are usually the most effective way of correcting problems with mobility and strength caused by hyperextended or flexed knees, hips, elbows, wrists, or hands. Physical and occupational therapies are also used to correct and prevent the progression of deformities in the trunk, arms, and legs caused by contracture and to reduce the risk of pain during adulthood.
Our physical and occupational therapists use a variety of exercises and specialized techniques to improve flexibility, range of motion, and muscle strength. Other exercises may be designed to improve your baby’s ease with rolling over, crawling, and walking.
Devices such as a walker or a wheelchair can assist children who cannot walk or move around easily. Other devices can aid children who have difficulty holding a pen or pencil or feeding and grooming themselves. Our therapists can work with you to identify the devices your child needs and provide instruction in how to use them.
Positioning devices such as splints and casts can keep joints stretched for a few weeks or longer. Using a series of splints and casts can also help your child’s bones line up properly and relieve stiff joints throughout growth to increase flexibility, expand range of motion, and prevent permanent damage. Other positioning devices, such as chair inserts, standing frames, orthotics, and braces, help to support your child’s alignment while sitting or standing.
Serial casts are usually fitted by an orthopedist or a physical or occupational therapist. Our therapists also customize splints to fit your child. These devices are periodically changed to allow for growth and to permit increasing range of motion. Our therapists can also help you and your child learn to perform everyday activities, such as getting dressed and doing exercises, while wearing a splint, cast, or positioning device.
Our doctors often use a series of specialized foot casts to correct clubfoot in children with arthrogryposis. This treatment is most effective when started early in infancy, before a baby’s bones have fully hardened.