What is Spinal Muscular Atrophy? Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) is a group of genetic diseases that causes muscle weakness and wasting in infants and children.
What are terms that I might hear my doctor use when talking about SMA? Some common impairments that occur in children with SMA that your doctor might talk to you about include hypotonia and muscle atrophy. Hypotonia is low muscle tone, meaning the muscles receive less activation from the nervous system. This may cause your child to be “floppy” because their muscles have difficulty holding them upright. Muscle atrophy is muscle weakness and wasting. This may also contribute to difficulty holding themselves upright and moving.
What movements and activities may my child have difficulty with? Because of the low muscle tone and weakness, your child may have difficulty holding themselves upright while sitting, standing and walking. They may also have difficulty transitioning from laying, to sitting, and to standing. Weakness to the respiratory muscles may also cause difficulty breathing
What can physical therapy do for children with SMA? Physical therapists help children with SMA develop muscle strength and movement abilities to function at the highest level possible.Some activities that a physical therapist can work on with your child include:
Head and trunk control for upright sitting, standing, and walking
Floor mobility, such as rolling and crawling
Changing positions, such as pulling to stand or kneeling to standing
Strengthening respiratory muscles to improve breathing
Preventing joint tightness by improving flexibility
Strengthening muscles of the arms, legs and core for functional movements including walking, stairs, eating, and playing
What activities can I do with my child? You can help your child strengthen their arm, leg, and core muscles by doing exercises including squatting, crab walks, and 4-point reaching. You can also help them with their mobility and gross motor skills by doing stairs, skipping/galloping, hopping/jumping, and walking. Breathing exercises, such as blowing bubbles or blowing a pinwheel, can also be help your child strengthen their respiratory muscles.
Community Resources and Foundations
Cure SMAhttps://www.curesma.org- Nationwide support system of families, caregivers, researchers, and clinicians. Provides resources for those newly diagnosed with SMA and those with SMA transitioning to adulthood.
Never Give Uphttps://nevergiveup.org/ Foundation for providing support, promoting advocacy, and funding research for SMA