What are Neuromuscular Disorders?
Neuromuscular disorders typically include a broad range of diseases that directly affect the nervous system. These disorders are genetic conditions that tend to be progressive in nature and can result in muscle weakness and fatigue. In some cases, neuromuscular disorders can be found at birth. Some will manifest during childhood while others have an adult-onset diagnosis. However, some neuromuscular disorders have no known cause. Neurologists are able to treat neuromuscular disorders in different ways depending on the severity of the symptoms.
Categories of neuromuscular disorders
- Peripheral motor neuron diseases that involve the muscle-controlling nerve cells of the arms, legs, face and neck
- Motor neuron diseases involving nerve cells present in the spinal cord
- Muscular dystrophies that affect the structure of muscle cells
- Neuromuscular junction diseases
- Myopathies that may include inflammation of the muscles or related tissues
- Metabolic muscle diseases
Signs and symptoms
Common symptoms of neuromuscular disease may include:
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle wasting
- Muscle cramps
- Muscle pain
- Limb pain
- Muscle stiffness
- Breathing and swallowing difficulties
Symptoms can be mild, moderate or life-threatening depending on the condition of the patient. While muscle wasting isn’t painful, resulting in weaknesses that can cause joint deformities, chronic aches and tightening or freezing of joints also known as contracture.
Treating neuromuscular disorders
While there is no cure known for most neuromuscular disorders, they can be effectively managed and treated to provide a better quality of life. Treatments for neuromuscular disorders include:
- Drug therapy: immunosuppressive drugs are available to treat muscle and nerve diseases. Additionally, anticonvulsants and antidepressants are also used to treat pain caused by neuropathy.
- Physical therapy: daily stretching exercises will help patients walk and help maintain the range of motion in stiff joints.
- Braces: walking braces will help support weak muscles, keeping the body flexible and slowing down the progression of contractures.
Surgical treatment for pediatric disorders: surgical management for pediatric neuromuscular disorders would assist children in their daily physical activities (walking, running, etc). Some common procedures include tendon lengthening or transfers, hip reconstruction, bone realignment and Botulinum toxin-A injections.