Effectiveness of exercise therapy for individuals diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease: A systematic review of randomized clinical trials

J Peripher Nerv Syst. 2023 Jun;28(2):169-178. doi: 10.1111/jns.12548. Epub 2023 Apr 24.


Background and aims: Effective treatments for Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease lack. Current treatments, such as ankle and foot surgery/orthoses, analgesics, and physiotherapy, focus on relieving the symptoms. Few randomized controlled trials (RCTs) investigated the effectiveness of exercise in patients with CMT, and a systematic review summarizing the effects of such treatments is outdated. This study aims to systematically review the effects of exercise on muscle strength, function, aerobic capacity, and quality of life in CMT.

Methods: We included RCTs that compared exercise programs against sham exercise, usual care, no exercise, and different exercise programs in individuals diagnosed with CMT. Searches were performed on 10 electronic databases from inception up to July 2021. Authors analyzed titles, abstracts, and full texts and extracted information from the eligible trials. We used the Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro) scale and the GRADE (Grades of Recommendation, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation) approach to evaluate the risk of bias and the certainty of the evidence, respectively. Results were synthesized narratively.

Results: Eight citations (six studies; pooled n = 214) met the inclusion criteria. The mean age of participants was 38.49 (±13.02) years, and 83% were diagnosed with CMT1A. The mean PEDro score was 5.25 (range 2-9). Six trials were considered to have a high risk of bias. Moderate-quality evidence suggests that strengthening the ankle dorsiflexors minimizes the progression of weakness at 24 months in children with CMT1A. For other outcomes, quality of the evidence ranged from very low to low.

Interpretation: Based on the available, evidence we can only recommend exercise to improve muscle strength in children with CMT. More high quality and robust trials are needed.

Keywords: Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease; exercise; function; muscle strength; randomized controlled trial.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease* / therapy
  • Child
  • Exercise
  • Exercise Therapy / methods
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Strength / physiology
  • Quality of Life
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic