Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome (LEMS) is a rare disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the nerve cells that control muscles, leading to symptoms that most notably include muscle weakness which worsens over time.
Physiotherapy may help to slow the progression of LEMS, aiding patients in maintaining muscle strength and improving their quality of life.
What is physiotherapy?
Physiotherapy involves movement and exercise, massage therapy, education, and advice. Patients work with a physiotherapist, who designs a treatment program based on the patient’s symptoms and abilities.
Patients should begin working with a physiotherapist as soon as possible after receiving a LEMS diagnosis.
How physiotherapy can help
Physiotherapists identify areas of muscle weakness and design an exercise plan so that patients can work to strengthen their muscles and maintain or improve their range of motion, without hurting themselves or worsening their condition.
For LEMS patients, prolonged or strenuous exercise can aggravate symptoms, so it is important to keep to the exercise routine set by the physiotherapist. Therapy may involve exercising or stretching under a therapist’s supervision, or keeping an exercise diary or log and discussing it with the therapist regularly.
For some patients, massage therapy — the manual manipulation of muscle groups — can help with muscle pain and weakness as well as improve flexibility.
Physiotherapy in clinical trials
Although no clinical trials have studied the efficacy of physiotherapy as a LEMS treatment, evidence supports the benefits of physiotherapy in myasthenia gravis (a neuromuscular condition that is similar to LEMS) and in other muscular dystrophies.
A survey of muscular dystrophy clinical trials that involved physiotherapy was published in the journal PLOS One. Its authors reported that some degree of improvement in patient outcomes was shown in all trials that included physiotherapy. However, because some of these studies were small and many were poorly controlled, they concluded that the significance of its possible benefits was unclear. They recommended that large, multi-center trials be carried out to better identify how physiotherapy might help in treating neuromuscular conditions.
Last updated: July 24, 2019
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