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What is the Treatment?
For most types of arthrogryposis, physiotherapy has proved very beneficial in improving muscle strength and the range of motion of affected joints. Parents are encouraged to become active participants in a therapy programme and to continue therapy at home on a daily basis. Removable splints can be made to augment the stretching exercises to increase range of motion. Casting is often used. However, emphasis should be placed on achieving as much joint mobility as possible.
Hydrotherapy or swimming in a warm pool is an excellent exercise. Occupational therapy is useful when the upper limbs or hands are involved. Speech therapy and/or jaw physiotherapy is useful when the jaw is involved.
Surgery should be viewed as a supportive measure to other forms of treatment when they have achieved their maximum result. Surgery is commonly performed on ankles to put feet in position for weightbearing and walking. Less frequently, surgery is required on knees, hips, elbows and wrists to achieve better position or greater range of motion. In some cases, tendon transfers have been done to improve muscle function.
In the past, surgeries were often repeated as the deformities reoccurred. With newer surgical techniques and careful follow-up treatment with physiotherapy and splints, surgical success appears to be much improved. However, before any surgery is performed, it is important to be aware of the risks and the amount of improvement which can be expected. It is wise to seek a second or even third opinion before proceeding with surgery. If possible, talk to someone whose child has had similar surgery.
Since the term arthrogryposis refers to a group of relatively rare conditions, few therapists or doctors have dealt with very many cases. Therefore, it is advisable to contact doctors and therapists who have treated a large number of patients with arthrogryposis. They are usually found at the major children's hospitals.
*Information in this section is taken from a publication of AVENUES, the arthrogryposis support group in U.S.A.