Treatment Options for Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy is a non-progressive condition meaning it does not get worse over time. Unfortunately, however, cerebral palsy is also a permanent, non-curable disorder. Cerebral palsy is the result of a glitch in the brain that forms from cell damage during childbirth or gestation. Unlike other cells in the body, brain cells are not able to regenerate or heal. Once the cerebral palsy glitch forms in the brain, there is no way to repair it. The good news is that there are a multitude of highly effective treatment options for cerebral palsy. A CP treatment plan may involve some combination of therapy, medication and possibly surgery. These treatment options cannot "cure" cerebral palsy, but they can be extremely helpful in managing the symptoms of the disorder and greatly improving comfort and life quality. Understanding the risks and benefits of available treatment options is very important.
Physical and Occupational Therapy
Therapy is the cornerstone of all cerebral palsy treatment plans. The primary types of therapy used in the treatment of all types of cerebral palsy are physical therapy and occupational therapy. Due to the uniqueness of physical disabilities in each individual case, even with the same cerebral palsy sub type, therapy programs are usually custom designed. In order to do so, a therapist must first examine your child and their individual patterns of physical disabilities. After this assessment, a customized program will be designed and developed to meet your child’s specific needs. Below is a description of the predominant therapies currently available.
Your child’s strength, flexibility, balance, motor development, and mobility can all be improved by physical therapy. Common techniques that are used include targeted strength exercises, muscle endurance training, joint mobilization and stretching, and balance and coordination drills. Therapy programs could additionally include aqua therapy in a pool. Surprisingly, research has recently proven aqua therapy to be highly effective for certain types of cerebral palsy.
It’s important to understand that physical therapy is not just for older children or adults. It is imperative to start a physical therapy program as soon as possible for children with cerebral palsy, including infancy. Research has indicated that physical therapy started in children under 12 months old with cerebral palsy can significantly increase the long-term results of the treatment. Generally, physical therapy is provided at home for babies and young children. In contrast, older children usually will go to pediatric physical therapy facilities specifically designed to provide care for children.
In contrast to physical therapy that centers on gross motor and muscle therapies, occupational therapy rather focuses on the development of fine motor skills and movement. Occupational therapy helps to promote a child’s independent participation in daily activities and routines such as the ability to write, get dressed on their own, use a cell phone or computer, and many similar things. While these tasks may seem simple, they can make a huge difference for children with cerebral palsy in terms of independence and quality of life.
Occupational therapy programs tend to be highly customized to address the unique needs and requirements of the individual patient. Unlike physical therapy which can often be uncomfortable and exhausting, occupational therapy programs are usually painless and enjoyable. Occupational therapists will often use recreational play, games and other fun activities as part of their treatment.
The majority of cerebral palsy treatment plans include some type of medication to help manage or reduce symptoms. The specific medication used, like all other cerebral palsy treatments, will vary dependent upon the type of cerebral palsy your child has. The most commonly used medications; however, are muscle relaxers, anti-seizure meds, and anticholinergic meds. Muscle relaxers, such as Baclofen or Valium, are often used in cases of spastic cerebral palsy to help minimize hypertonia’s disabling effects. Seizures are a common symptom of cerebral palsy, and as a result, anti-convulsive drugs such as Trileptal are often used. Lastly, anticholinergic meds are often used in children with dyskinetic cerebral palsy to limit the frequency and severity of uncontrolled and involuntary bodily movements. Additionally, these drugs can also reduce drooling and other symptoms.
Certain types of cerebral palsy, specifically spastic CP, have symptoms that can be alleviated through surgical intervention. Surgical treatment options