How Muscular Dystrophy Is Treated

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Unfortunately, there is no known cure for muscular dystrophy (MD), but researchers are making advances that continue to improve the quality of lives of people living with the disease. Today, patients often turn to a variety of conventional and alternative medicine options to help treat disease symptoms and complications. The most beneficial ones very much depend on the type of MD one has and their individual case, but options range from steroids and other prescriptions to respiratory and speech therapy to surgery and more.

Specialist-Driven Procedures

If you have MD, you may need surgery to aid several issues that may result from the disease. It is difficult to predict whether you would need surgery for any of the complications that can arise from MD. Often, regular physical therapy, respiratory therapy, and use of orthopedic devices can delay the need for surgery or even make surgery unnecessary. 

Complementary Medicine (CAM)

To date, few studies have tested the use of alternative medicine in the treatment of muscular dystrophy. If you're considering the use of any type of alternative medicine in the treatment of muscular dystrophy, it's important to consult your physician (or your child's pediatrician) before beginning treatment. Self-treating muscular dystrophy with alternative medicine and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

Some options you may hear about include:

Qigong

Qigong—the ancient Chinese mind-body practice of linking breath, meditation, and movement—may improve well-being in people with muscular dystrophy, according to a 2004 study published in Disability and Rehabilitation. The study involved 28 patients with muscular dystrophy, some of whom reported improvements in mental, physical, and psychosocial well-being (in addition to a reduction in stress levels) after practicing qigong.

Dietary Supplements

Several small studies show that dietary supplements may benefit muscular dystrophy patients. For instance, a 2006 study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that supplementation with amino acids helped inhibit whole-body protein degradation (a hallmark of Duchenne muscular dystrophy). The study involved 26 boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, each of whom was treated with amino acid supplements for 10 days.

Preliminary research also indicates that creatine (an amino acid that helps provide muscle cells with energy) may help treat muscular dystrophy as well. However, in a 2005 study of 50 boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, published in the Annals of Neurology, scientists found that six months of treatment with creatine supplements failed to improve muscle strength in participants.

Green Tea

Green tea may be of some benefit to people with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, according to preliminary research published in the American Journal of Physiology: Cell Physiology in 2006. In tests on mice in which they were fed green tea extract, researchers found that epigallocatechin gallate (an antioxidant found in green tea) may help protect against muscle wasting caused by muscular dystrophy. However, it's too soon to tell whether green tea may have the same effect on humans or in what form it could be beneficial. In any case, making a warm cup of tea (or asking your caregiver ot do it for you) is likely to provide at least some temporary comfort.

Caregiving for Someone With Muscular Dystrophy
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