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Therapy for Muscular Dystrophy

Physical therapy and occupational therapy—both of which help with the activities of daily living—are recommended for people with all types of muscular dystrophy. Specialists at NYU Langone’s Rusk Rehabilitation provide personalized physical and occupational therapy for adults and children with this condition.

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Physical Therapy

Your doctor may recommend exercises that can help to strengthen and stretch muscles affected by muscular dystrophy. These exercises are designed to prevent contractures, a stiffening of the muscles near a joint that limits movement in the affected part of the body.

A physical therapist can help you keep your muscles and joints as flexible as possible by creating a muscle strengthening and stretching routine tailored to your symptoms. Although you may initially visit your physical therapist several times each week, you likely can perform these exercises at home after you learn how to do them correctly.

Regular aerobic exercise can help to improve self-esteem, wellbeing, and quality of life among people with muscular dystrophy. An NYU Langone doctor or physical therapist may recommend low-impact activities, such as swimming or walking, for both children and adults with this condition. 

The physical therapists at Rusk Rehabilitation can work with you or your child to develop an exercise plan that is designed to address your needs and based on the type of muscular dystrophy.

Occupational Therapy

Many adults and children with muscular dystrophy also work with an occupational therapist. These therapists can help you continue performing activities of daily living, such as feeding, grooming, dressing, writing, and workplace tasks, as your physical abilities change due to the symptoms of muscular dystrophy. 

Occupational therapists at NYU Langone can help you relearn movements and abilities that involve muscles that have been weakened by muscular dystrophy. Occupational therapists also teach people with the condition to use assistive devices, such as walkers and wheelchairs.

Adults and children with muscular dystrophy often benefit from long-term physical and occupational therapy. The doctors and specialists at Rusk Rehabilitation are experienced in treating people with all forms of muscular dystrophy, at all stages of life. When muscular dystrophy progresses, our therapists offer care that supports your independence, so that you can perform everyday tasks on your own for as long as possible.

Swallowing Therapy

People with muscular dystrophy sometimes have trouble swallowing, which is called dysphagia. Specialists at Rusk’s Swallowing Disorders Program are dedicated to diagnosing and managing swallowing and feeding disorders 

A therapist trained in swallowing disorders performs a clinical feeding and swallowing assessment. During this evaluation, the therapist assesses your mouth, ability to tolerate age-appropriate liquid or food flavors and textures, behaviors related to mealtimes, and other factors that can affect eating and drinking. 

When appropriate, some children and adults may receive an instrumental swallowing evaluation, called a videofluoroscopic swallowing study. The test uses motion X-ray to allow a specialist to see how foods and liquids move through the mouth, throat, and upper part of the esophagus, which is the tube that carries food and liquids to your stomach.

Vocational Rehabilitation

Rusk offers people with muscular dystrophy the ability to explore vocational options and to develop the skills they need to return to school or work. Vocational rehabilitation may include vocational evaluations and counseling, work readiness and job skills training, computer skills training, and job placement services.

Children with muscular dystrophy receive therapy through Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone.

Our Research and Education in Muscular Dystrophy

Learn more about our research and professional education opportunities.