How to Live with Muscular Dystrophy

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The following article has been submitted by
Ayush Muscular Dystrophy Society India

Muscular dystrophy is a bundle of severe debilitating conditions in which the muscles that control movement progressively weaken. In some forms of this disease, the heart and other organs are also affected.  Currently there is no cure for any form of muscular dystrophy. Some modern medicines, ayurvedic remedies and therapies can slow the course of the disease.  This article introduces with a main thrust complementary program of care through research on Muscular dystrophy with a focus on Ayurvedic Panch Karma and Yogic approach of treatment. The Ayurvedic Mamsagni Rasayana herbs have shown definite protective influence and longer survival upon muscular dystrophy.

Muscular dystrophies are a group of more than 20 different genetic neuromuscular disorders, some more debilitating than others. The most common, Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) affects 1 in 3500 boys. There is a problem in the chromosome that codes for a protein called dystrophin which maintains the integrity of the muscle cell wall. Eventually irreversible destruction of the muscle cells occurs. In early school years, it may just seem that DMD boys are slower and clumsier than their peers. The disease progresses such that the majority will be wheelchair bound by 10-14 years.

Muscular dystrophies are inherited. Each disease is transmitted by a different genetic trait. DMD is inherited in an X-linked recessive transmission. That means that females may be carriers but do not have any debilitating symptoms. A female carrier has a 50% chance of transmitting the faulty gene onto her children. There is no  satisfactory treatment in any system of medicine. It is a progressive muscle-wasting disease due to a mutation in the dystrophin gene and the consequential protein deficiency in muscle. It results in chronic inflammation and severe skeletal muscle degeneration. How the lack of the sarcolemma protein dystrophin gives rise to the final disease status is still not clear.

The genetic disease conditions are diagnosed through genetic testing, a physical exam, a family medical history, and some specific tests. These might include: A muscle biopsy (the removal and examination of a small sample of muscle tissue)

  • DNA (genetic) testing
  • Electromyography or nerve conduction tests (which use electrodes to test muscle and/or nerve function)
  • Blood enzyme tests (which may reveal muscle damage)

For DMD and BMD, muscle biopsy may show whether dystrophin protein is missing or abnormal, and DNA Test is used to analyze the condition of the related gene.

There’s no definite cure and, although a great deal can be done to help limit the effects of Muscular dystrophies. Ayurveda considers this condition as Mamsa-vata-kshaya related to beeja dosha and impairments of Mamsagni (muscle enzyme). It involves deranged Vata and subsequent degeneration of muscles and structures related to it. Ayurveda consider this condition due to leakage of Mamsagni from muscle tissues. This is supposed due to sarcolemma membrane defect in the muscle fibers.  Ayurvedic treatment might slow or stop the progression of muscle degeneration. The Til Mash Pinda swedana can help to stabilize the membrane defect. The Mamsagni Rasayana show cellular protective influence due to Vata deregulations. Existing Panch Karma and other supportive treatments aim to control symptoms, such as muscle spasm, and enable people to have a good quality of life. They include gentle Pawan Muktasana series of muscle exercises, because inactivity can worsen the disease. Pawan Muktasana along with certain other Asanas such as Bhujangasana may prevent or delay scoliosis, or curvature of the spine.  The Bhastrika Pranayama may support Cardio- Respiratory system and may improve process of beta-oxidation at cellular level.  Yogic support of Bhastrika Pranayama is important to boost the respiratory function. When respiratory function deteriorates, ventilator support may be needed.

There is no cure for any form of muscular dystrophy some medicines, ayurvedic remedies and therapies can slow the course of the disease. Human trials of gene therapy with the dystrophin gene are on the near horizon. For instance, scientists are researching ways to insert a working dystrophin gene into the muscles of boys with Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophies. Panch Karma procedures are also found useful in the life term management of muscular dystrophy.

Ayurvedic researchers are investigating the potential of certain muscle-building Rasayana medicines to slow down or reverse the progression of muscular dystrophy. Other trials are looking into the effects of the dietary supplements Withania somnifera, Curcuma longa, Creatine and glutamine on muscle energy production and storage.

Symptoms of muscular dystrophy often can be relieved through exercise, Panch Karma therapy, rehabilitative devices, and Yogic respiratory care with Bhastrika Pranayama, and surgery.

  • Ayurvedic Panch Karma & Yogic Support can minimize abnormal or painful positioning of the joints and may prevent or delay curvature of the spine. Respiratory care, deep breathing, and coughing exercises are often recommended.
  • In Duchenne muscular dystrophy, corticosteroids may slow muscle destruction.
  • In myotonic muscular dystrophy, phenytoin, procainamide or quinine can treat delayed muscle relaxation.
  • In DMD, BMD and LGMD, the Mamsagni Rasayana has shown muscular protection.

Genetic counseling, prenatal diagnosis by chorionic villus sampling, and antenatal screening of families with MDs provides an opportunity to prevent these diseases being passed on to children. Ayurvedic primary intention is on treating or delaying symptoms, enhancing physical mobility and preventing cardiac and respiratory complications.

Research update on Ayurvedic support is available in the link below:

Advice and support
Ayush Muscular Dystrophy Society India
Tel: +91 (788) 229-2358


Sharmaji is deeply involved with Ayurveda since 15 years. His interest and passion led him to launch and about a decade ago. Most of the Ayurveda news and articles on this site are approved or published by him.

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