Muscle strength tests could help to predict bone health in people with FSHD

Published Date
Laura Jacobs

This article was kindly shared by June Kinoshita, FSH Society.

Muscle plays an important role in bone health, and conditions such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy have been linked to low bone mineral density, abnormal bone turnover (the cycle of new bone formation and old bone removal), and increased risk of fractures. It was not known whether facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) also affects bone health, and a recent study published in Muscle & Nerve begins to address this question.

Bone health is a concern for many people with muscular dystrophy, because weaker muscles increase the chance of falling and the risk of fracture. Fractured bones can take a long time to heal, and reduced mobility as a result of fractures can, in turn, further weaken muscles.

The study, led by Dr Kathryn Wagner of the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Maryland, USA, examined 94 people with FSHD, half in Australia and half in the U.S. The volunteers had genetically confirmed FSHD Type 1 and were examined for correlations among disease severity score, bone mineral density, blood biomarkers (molecules associated with bone turnover and health), strength tests and function.

Overall, the study reported that a diagnosis of FSHD was not predictive of decreased bone mineral density or increased bone fractures. However, the researchers found that declines in whole-body and regional bone mineral density were moderately correlated with reduced muscle strength and function. These patients had a higher prevalence of traumatic fractures, as well as abnormally low levels of vitamin D3.

“Given the considerable variability of bone health in the FSHD population, strength and function can serve as predictors of bone mineral density,” the study concluded.

The authors suggested that periodic bone-density scans should be done in people with FSHD whose strength and functional tests indicate a higher risk of lower bone mineral density. This will assist doctors in developing effective treatment plans tailored to individuals to help prevent fractures and promote bone health.

The study was funded by a grant from FSHD Global Research Foundation and the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Further information

Watch this video presentation on bone health in FSHD or download the slides here

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