Charcot Marie Tooth or CMT disease refers to a group of sensory and/or motor peripheral nerves disorder, which leads to atrophy and muscle weakness, along with sensory loss. Initially, you will experience the mentioned manifestations in your distal legs and later on, in your hands. The nerve cells in CMT patients fail to send any electrical signal properly due to abnormalities in their insulation/myelin across the axon or within the nerve axon itself. Abnormalities associated with peripheral nerves often take place because of specific gene mutations. Because of this, an individual may inherit CMT in any of the autosomal recessive, autosomal dominant or X-lined inheritance modes.(1)
Is Charcot Marie Tooth A Progressive Disease?
Yes, Charcot Marie Tooth is a progressive type of disease. This is because; initially, it affects the long nerve fibers but with time, affected people may fail to use their hands, feet, arms, and legs in a normal way. Common complications include a reduction insensitivity towards the heat, pain or touch, muscular weakness in the lower leg, feet or hands, the difficulty associated with fine motor skills, foot drop or high-stepped gait, loss of muscular mass, falling or tripping frequently, high foot arch, hammertoes, and flat feet. In this way, the disease progresses at a slow rate, but the good thing is that affected people to stay active and live a regular life for many years. On the other side, in severe cases, people may have breathing difficulties, which results in death.(1)
Alternative Treatments To Deal With Charcot Marie Tooth Disease
Other than conventional treatment options, doctors sometimes recommend alternative treatments or therapies to manage the symptoms related to Charcot Marie Tooth disease. These include the following-
Physical Therapy For Charcot Marie Tooth Disease
Physical therapy is recommendable for building physical strength in the lower body area and simultaneously, to set up proper coordination. The alternative treatment thus consists of specific stretches and exercises, which help in the prevention of muscular loss, muscle tightness, stiffness, and cramps. A majority of physical therapy programs intend to manage the Charcot Marie Tooth disease with low-intensity aerobic exercises, like cycling or swimming workouts combined with stretching and strength building workouts. However, patients have to do each of the exercises under the supervision of a physical therapist for monitoring their progress and avoid any type of injury.
Occupational Therapy For Charcot Marie Tooth Disease
Occupational therapy intends to restore the patients’ muscular functions and to bring improvement in their quality of life. Accordingly, any occupational therapist assists patients to overcome their limitations because of weakness in their arms, legs, hands and lacking coordination or instability. For this, the occupational therapist recommends the following steps to manage Charcot Marie Tooth related symptoms-
- To provide suitable help to perform daily activities at home, like the preparation of food or showering.
- To bring improvement in hands’ movements, obtain coordination and grip physical strength
- To improve fingers’ gripping to perform different activities, like dressing, eating, cooking, bathing, writing and cleaning
- To assist in using assistive devices in the right way for daily mobility, including a few of the orthopedic devices to help in climbing, walking and running
- To improve coordination and stability to avoid fall incidents and to reduce risks related to physical injury
Home-Based Exercises And Stretching Activities For Charcot Marie Tooth Disease
Doctors recommend Charcot Marie Tooth patients doing exercises as well as stretching activities at home to improve muscle strength and mobility. Especially, doctors recommend for swimming, as it does not add any pressure to weak muscles. Alternatively, patients may do biking or cycling on any stationary bike or simply by using elliptical devices.
A few clinics have even started using AlterG types of treadmills to hep their Charcot Marie Tooth patients to learn walking with steadier and long strides. These treadmills use antigravity or unweighting technology to assist in the rehabilitation of physical therapy. The treadmills also help to improve balance, strength, and extension gradually.
Other than exercise, it is essential for you to do regular stretching, as it is very much essential to retain your flexibility, lose any stiff muscle, avoid injuries and take proper care of various joints. Even stretching helps in reducing joint deformities, which may take place with time because of muscles pull on specific bones.(2)
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