Physical Therapy for Scleroderma

Scleroderma is a rare disease characterized by the hardening and tightening of the skin and connective tissues. In some people, the condition affects only the skin; in others it may involve other tissues and organs such as the blood vessels, muscles, lungs, kidneys, and digestive tract. In such cases, it can lead to symptoms that make it difficult for patients to stay active.

Physical therapy can help alleviate some of the symptoms of scleroderma, reduce pain, and improve mobility.

Physical therapy for scleroderma

Physical therapy conducted under the supervision of a physiotherapist can help stretch the skin, muscles, and joints affected by scleroderma using exercise. This can improve posture, increase the range of movements that a patient can perform, and prevent loss of muscle mass and strength. It also can reduce pain by promoting the release of endorphins, which are natural proteins that reduce the perception of pain, improve heart and lung function, and help maintain bone strength.

Physical therapy also can be used to help reduce other symptoms of scleroderma, including gastrointestinal, lymph node, and nervous system problems.

Case studies on the effects of physical therapy in a 35-year-old patient and a 71-year-old patient showed that therapy led to improvements in pain, movement ability, and muscle strength in the body and hands.

Types of physical therapy for scleroderma

Scleroderma can affect the entire body, so physiotherapy regimens for the disease usually involve multiple areas of the body.

A physiotherapist may recommend stretches of the shoulders, elbows, wrists, neck, fingers, and back. The face and mouth may be included, as needed. Stretching exercises usually are done three times a day and held for 10 seconds each for the best effect.

Mild exercises that can help patients with scleroderma include walking, cycling, and ellipticals. These raise the heart rate, strengthen the heart muscle, and increase endurance, while also encouraging mobility of the limbs and body, as well as helping with digestion.

Other physical therapies may include reducing nerve pain through neural mobilization exercises and draining enlarged lymph nodes through the adoption of special postures combined with soft tissue massages.


Scleroderma News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.