Down syndrome is a common genetic disorder which affects one baby in every 691 births. Many children with Down syndrome have problems with their bones and joints that impede movement and coordination, and may worsen with age.
It is imperative to address the musculoskeletal issues that occur in childhood to vastly improve the future health and function of those with Down syndrome. While the severity of developmental delay varies for each child, those with Down syndrome may be slower to turn over, sit, stand, walk, or engage in other physical activities.
The most common musculoskeletal effects of Down syndrome are weak muscle tone and loose ligaments, which lead to excessive joint flexibility. Children with Down syndrome may suffer from flat feet, bunions, or other foot conditions that cause pain and significantly impact their gait and balance.
Treatments for children with Down syndrome may include:
Strengthening activities and exercise can improve weak muscle tone and help protect against problems stemming from excessive joint flexibility. Early physical therapy can help children with Down syndrome reach developmental milestones and build muscle tone and coordination.
Sometimes kids with Down syndrome need splints or devices to relieve their pain and allow for easier movement. Orthotics, arch supports, customized shoes, and braces are all helpful tools for problems caused by joint instability.
Children with Down syndrome must be encouraged to engage in physical activity and eat a well-balanced diet to help them avoid excess weight and problems like diabetes.
If the musculoskeletal problems don’t respond well to the above nonsurgical treatments, surgery may be recommended. Surgery on bones and/or soft tissues, such as ligaments, may be required to help minimize looseness of joints in the feet.
At Advanced Foot Care Centers, we work with patients of all ages and ability to help them improve their quality of life and reduce pain!