Physical Therapy for Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy (CP) is a neurological condition that causes problems with body movement and muscle coordination. It is caused by abnormalities in parts of the brain that control muscle movements. While most children are born with this condition, signs and symptoms may not appear until months or years later. Symptoms of cerebral palsy may vary greatly. Most people with cerebral palsy have problems with movement and posture, however, some may also have intellectual disabilities, impaired vision and hearing, or speech problems. The symptoms of cerebral palsy usually do not worsen with age.
Although there is no cure for cerebral palsy, there are several treatments available to help ease the symptoms of this condition and improve physical capabilities. Treatment for cerebral palsy may include medication to help control seizures, relax muscle spasms and relieve pain. In addition, individuals may benefit from physical and occupational therapy to increase mobility and muscle function.
Physical therapy often begins soon after cerebral palsy is diagnosed and is an important part of a treatment program. Exercises and activities are designed to maintain or improve muscle strength, balance, and motor skills. A physical therapy program may include the following:
- Strength training exercises
- Resistive exercises
- Flexibility exercises
Exercises and stretching activities may also help to prevent muscle contractures. Special braces or orthotic devices may be used to improve mobility and stretch spastic muscles.In addition to physical therapy, occupational therapy can help patients with upper body function, improving posture and increasing mobility. Occupational therapists help individuals with completing everyday activities such as dressing, going to school, and participating in regular activities. Children with CP may also drool excessively and have difficulty eating and drinking because of decreased muscle control. Therapists work with patients to strengthen the muscles of the mouth, jaw, and tongue, helping them to eat and drink successfully.
Through continued treatment, most children are able to improve their motor skills and lead a life that is as close to normal as possible, and go on to enjoy functional, independent adult lives.