Physiotherapy and biokinetics can be essential in the management of a variety of autoimmune diseases. Dermatomyositis is one of the diseases which we will be unpacking.

What is dermatomyositis?

Dermatomyositis is a rare autoimmune inflammatory disease that causes muscle inflammation and skin rash.

It is a systemic connective tissue disease, found in the rheumatoid family. Dermatomyositis can be characterized by inflammatory and degenerative changes which primarily affect muscles and skin.

Causes of dermatomyositis:

Inflammatory myopathies are immune-mediated processes triggered by environmental factors in genetically susceptible people.

The exact cause is not known, but possible causes include:

  • Abnormal genes you are born with
  • Cancer, especially in older people
  • Autoimmune disease, a type of illness that causes the body’s immune system to attack its own tissues
  • An infection, medication, or another exposure in your environment that triggers the disease

Epidemiology of dermatomyositis

There is an estimated prevalence of 5-22 per 100 000 persons who have dermatomyositis and polymyositis.

Dermatomyositis is most common in two age groups with one peak at 5-15 years and another at 45-60.

Women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with the disease. In some cases, people with the disease also have a connective tissue disorder, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.


  • Progressive symmetric muscle weakness primarily in muscles of proximal joints, neck, and pharynx
  • Dusky skin rash (potentially scaly, elevated, or smooth)
  • Gottron’s sign is a flat red rash over the back of the fingers, elbows, or knees
  • Muscular pain and tenderness
  • Subcutaneous calcifications
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Cardiopulmonary involvement (arrhythmias, congestive heart failure, or ventricular hypertrophy).

Physiotherapy treatment for dermatomyositis focuses on the following:

  • Impaired joint mobility
  • Impaired motor function and muscle performance
  • Limited range of motion
  • Impairment of skin involvement resulting in scar formation
  • Patient education on joint preservation
  • Passive stretching and splinting

Biokineticists treatment for dermatomyositis focuses on the following

  • Patient education on joint preservation
  • Muscle strengthening to prevent atrophy
  • Range of motion exercises to prevent contractures
  • Stretching

Dermatomyositis can present some long-term effects on the body such as pain and muscle weakness amongst many other characteristics. These problems can result in a decreased quality of life because of impaired mobility resulting in a decline in independence. Seeking help from physiotherapists and biokinetics is a beneficial part of managing many autoimmune diseases, including dermatomyositis.