While research continues for a way to reverse the brain damage that causes cerebral palsy, current treatment places an emphasis on therapies that give a patient the tools to counteract or lessen the effects of the condition.
Therapy for cerebral palsy targets a wide array of physical, social and cognitive needs based each patient’s disability. Examples include physical therapy, occupational therapy, aqua therapy, massage therapy, respiratory therapy, recreational therapy, speech and language therapy as well as social therapy.
Children diagnosed with CP at an early age have a better chance of adapting to and overcoming their limitations through these types of therapies. Many can even live a near-normal lifestyle.
If your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, the CP Help Center can recommend therapists in your area, as well as resources to assist in arranging treatment. If you feel your child’s CP was caused by an avoidable brain injury, we can also connect you with a lawyer that can discuss your rights to seek compensation.
Physical therapy is a central part of any CP treatment. It is often the first therapy ordered and can start at a very early age or just following when a child is diagnosed. Cerebral palsy physical therapy uses specialized exercises like resistance, stretching and strength training to progress balance, motor skills and muscle strength.
Treatment may also focus on expanding mobility, preventing muscle contracture and lengthening spastic muscles.
Occupational therapy for cerebral palsy centers around maximizing those functions that children and adults need for education, work and daily activities. Special exercises are used to improve upper body control and fine motor skills, maintain posture, and optimize a child’s mobility. Therapists also work with children to develop adaptive ways to dress themselves, go to school or work, and perform everyday tasks.
Aqua therapy can provide the benefits of intense exercise in a comfortable and low-impact setting. It is typically performed under the watch of a certified professional in a pool, spa or tub. Aqua therapy for CP may combine strength training with stretching and cardiovascular exercise to improve function and range of motion while taking stress off of the musculoskeletal system.
Patients often find they can move better in water, and when performed in a warm environment, it can also restore and soothe muscles, joints and ligaments.
Massage therapy uses superficial manipulation of muscles and joints to relieve discomfort, improve how the different systems work together, and recover for additional exercise. It can be both rehabilitative and therapeutic, depending on the needs of the child. Massage therapy for cerebral palsy can also have a positive effect on pain, tension, range and flexibility, circulation and stress.
Many of the diminished functions associated with cerebral palsy also affect the way children are able to eat, drink and breathe. This can be a major detriment to quality of life and put them at risk of choking or poor nutrition. Respiratory therapy for cerebral palsy addresses these risks and monitors for other respiratory diseases that can cause complications.
Recreation therapy places children with functional limitations in adaptive settings for sports, activities and artistic programs. The option for children with conditions such as CP to participate in leisure activities has expanded exponentially in recent decades, and continues to evolve. This often improves a child’s physical well-being, as well as their cognitive abilities and self-esteem.
Children with cerebral palsy may face difficulty speaking, communicating or even swallowing due to limited muscle function. Speech and language therapy attempts to address these issues through specialized throat exercises or by finding alternative methods of communication.
In some cases, children are taught sign language or given Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices like electronic synthesizers and communication boards. In recent years, the advance of hand-held electronic devices has opened even more possibilities for those with difficulty communicating.
Children with cerebral palsy face social challenges similar to anyone with special needs: difficulty with communication, shyness, relationships, anxiety, social skills and handling the preconceptions of other people. Social therapy for cerebral palsy works to replace those feelings and challenges with new practices and perceptions. This can lead children to healthier relationships and a greater connectivity with others and their environment.
While considered medical treatment rather than a therapy, Stem Cell Therapy is a promising prospect for those suffering from cerebral palsy. These methods are still in the early stages of development. However, based on clinical trials so far, researchers are encouraged that stem cells may one day soon be capable of repairing the damaged brain tissue that causes cerebral palsy.
Currently, studies are underway to measure the effectiveness and safety of injecting umbilical cord blood stem cells into children with CP. However, more research is necessary.
Overall, the cerebral palsy therapy options available to patients today allow them to optimize their functionality and live life without the limits of years past. Many of these depend on a patient’s level of disability and immediate needs. However, the treatment options continue to expand each year.
For a customized therapy program, consult your doctor and/or therapist. The CP Help Center can recommend treatment centers in your area, as well as clinical trial programs and legal professionals for those with cerebral palsy caused by a preventable brain injury.
For more information on the causes, treatment options and research related to cerebral palsy, or to speak with a lawyer, contact us today. We are available 24 hours a day to help.