Muscular Dystrophy is not the kind of diagnosis that anyone likes to hear. Usually diagnosed in childhood, it refers to a group of genetic diseases that result in progressive loss of muscle strength and mass. At this point in time, there is no cure, although some treatments can aid in the management of the condition and slow its progression. The prognosis: most sufferers will end up using a wheelchair and may have difficulty breathing or swallowing among other symptoms.
Make no mistake: this is a condition for which multiple therapies and supports are needed, but so far there has been very little evidence for the role of chiropractic (if any) within that ecosystem of care.
A recent case report appearing in the Journal of Contemporary Chiropractic covered the case of a 23-year-old male who had a diagnosis of the condition . The details of the case paint a grim picture. At age 13, he started to experience difficulty “walking, bending and sitting due to pain and stiffness. By age 19, he realized the seriousness of what was diagnosed as growing pain when he depended on medication to bend, tie his shoelaces or engage in physical activity like fishing .” It was at this point that he saw a neurologist and was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy and referred to a medical centre because of the fast progression of the disease.
At age 23, he had a ten-year history of back pain, had endured nine months of treatment using medication and had received “a report indicating that his condition was still progressing, there was no hope of engaging in physical activity and he would be ultimately wheelchair bound for the rest of his life .” He was now unable to work as a welder and rated his pain as an 8/10 for back and neck pain, and his symptoms interfered with “daily activities, work, sleep, daily routine and recreation.”
In addition, he reported a swathe of symptoms ranging from poor circulation and allergies, up to issues that meant he could no longer perform activities requiring him to push, twist or pull. The details of the case report seem to indicate that not only had he sadly missed early intervention due to a misdiagnosis of growing pain, but he was now suffering from a greatly reduced quality of life.
Enter Chiropractic Care:
From the outset, the case report makes no claims regarding “curing” or “treating” the condition as that would be an unreasonable and unsupported claim. But it does give incredibly detailed reportage of the examinations, management (co-managed with physiotherapy) and frankly impressive results.
From the starting point outlined above, an examination was performed in which a swath of tests were used to establish range of motion and muscle strength along with orthopaedic tests (see the full case report, referenced below) for the full details.
It is perhaps unsurprising that his examination revealed significant subluxation findings, disc degeneration and lumbosacral plexus disorder. A course of chiropractic care commenced in which he attend three times per week for two weeks, and then two times a week for four weeks for the initial care plan. The attending chiropractor used Diversified Technique as well as Thompson Technique and a TENS unit as well as Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation Stretches (again, full details of the comprehensive care plan are outlined in the full case report).
The aim of care was to correct subluxations. However, the results concomitant with that care plan were noteworthy indeed. “After completing the initial plan of care, he did not have any more headaches. His headache disability was reduced to 4% [from 56%]. He could also perform other activities he was previously unable to do, including drive, concentrate, lift, sleep and take care of himself. ”
This would be noteworthy enough, but there were also significant improvements in clinical findings such as range of motion, cervical extension, lumbar flexion and more. Perhaps most significantly, he reported a pain decrease from 8/10 to 3/10 in both his neck and back.
A second care plan was introduced at this point, after which he could “take care of himself, sleep read, drive, walk, fish and life up to 10 pounds of weight without any trouble.” His headache disability score was reduced to 1% and he was shifted to a maintenance care plan.
What does this mean for chiropractic?
There is still no cure for Muscular Dystrophy. In fact, there are now many variations on the group of genetic mutations that combine to create the disorder. The novel factor about this case report is that chiropractic care is not usually considered among the management and care options for muscular dystrophy sufferers. Thus, there is a paucity of literature pertaining to the condition.
While chiropractic is not a cure, and no single case report could indicate that, there were significant, life-altering improvements in the physical condition of the Muscular Dystrophy sufferer which does indeed warrant further investigation.
It has often been said that the aim of chiropractic care is to add life to years and years to life. It isn’t often that we can quantify that. But this case report may indeed be one of those rare cases where a drastic change in life course may indeed be apparent.
- Kenya, A., Kenya Vuyiyam, C. (2021). Response of a patient with muscular dystrophy (MD) to chiropractic care. Journal of Contemporary Chiropractic. https://journal.parker.edu/index.php/jcc/article/view/164