Ask a Physical Therapist: Can Physical Therapy be Helpful in Treating Polymyositis?

Question: I have recently been diagnosed with Polymyositis. Can physical therapy be helpful in treatment of Polymyositis?

A Physical therapist can help with restoration of function and is a vital member of the medical team that provides guidance, support, and direction for individuals affected by polymyositis.
Polymyositis is an inflammatory muscle disease that causes weakness of the skeletal muscles. It is unclear what triggers a person’s immune system to attack their own body tissues, but this is essentially what occurs when your white blood cells begin to invade your healthy muscle tissue. Early, and in the acute phase, you may experience a significant and rapid decline in strength and function. The muscles most severely affected are typically those closest to the trunk or torso; this results in weakness of the shoulders, hips and pelvis, neck and back.
Once an effective medication program has been implemented and the acute inflammation is better controlled, physical therapy interventions can begin. Initially, you will benefit from a physical therapy program of gentle stretches and range of motion techniques. The initial goal is to prevent permanent muscle shortening and avoid contractures. If tolerated, heat therapy as well as soft tissue mobilization may aid efforts to maintain optimal flexibility.
Education from your physical therapist regarding activity pacing and guidance on how to monitor the body’s response to activity is critical to determining how to progress your rehabilitation program. A physical therapist will provide tools to assist with monitoring fatigue levels and developing a proper rest/activity schedule that will help maintain a consistent level of energy for functional tasks. It is critical to rest before being exhausted. Overexertion is detrimental to recovery.
As you become more medically stable, the rehabilitation program progresses to include active range-of-motion and isometric exercises of the proximal muscle groups. With improvement in muscle strength, you may be guided in the performance of selected exercises with light resistance. Aerobic exercise is encouraged when fatigue levels allow progression to this level.
Management of this disease will require you to have close family and friends provide support and encouragement. As physical therapists, we try to help you maintain your daily physical routines as best you can. We encourage and support you to seek stress reduction and relaxation by doing things that provide you enjoyment.
Remember, physical therapy treatment can improve your muscle strength and function. We are here as a resource for you and to aid you in your fight against this disease. We encourage you to learn all you can about this disorder and to reach out and seek encouragement when you need it.

More to come! We have posted the first two segments of a three part series below, with helpful first-hand advice from a patient on how to organize your life and construct a helpful medical team after being diagnosed.

Managing Myositis: One Patient’s Perspective
This is one patient’s journey though the mire of a rare autoimmune disorder called inflammatory Myositis. It’s meant as a “lessons learned” to perhaps help other patients with a Myositis diagnosis. In no way should any of the experiences in this blog take precedence over doctor’s orders.

Myositis-Another Benginning

Myositis-Your Medical Team: Be Your Own Advocate

Myositis-Preparing for Your Appointments

Myositis-Dealing with Insurance

Myositis-Communicating Your Needs

Myositis-Resources to Help

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