Cerebral Palsy Physiotherapy Treatment
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What is cerebral palsy?
Cerebral palsy (CP) is an abnormality of motor function (as opposed to mental function) and postural tone that is acquired at an early age, even before birth. Signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy usually show in the first year of life.
This abnormality in the motor system is the result of brain lesions that are nonprogressive. The motor system of the body provides the ability to move and control movements. A brain lesion is any abnormality of brain structure or function. “Nonprogressive” means that the lesion does not produce ongoing degeneration of the brain. It is also implied that the brain lesion is the result of a one-time brain injury, that will not occur again. Whatever the brain damage that occurred at the time of the injury is the extent of damage for the rest of the child’s life.
Cerebral palsy affects approximately one to three out of every thousand children born. However, it is much higher in infants born with very low weight and in premature infants.
Interestingly, new treatment methods that resulted in an increased survival rate of low-birth-weight and premature infants actually resulted in an overall increase in the number of children with cerebral palsy. The new technologies, however, did not change the rate of cerebral palsy in children born full term and with normal weight.
What are symptoms and signs of cerebral palsy?
The predominant symptoms and signs of cerebral palsy are related to motor difficulties, which are the consequence of the brain damage. The extension and severity of the brain lesion is the leading factor in the magnitude of the motor deficit. Many of the symptoms observed in these children are related to the primary problem that is impaired motor functions. For example, developmental motor delay, gait disorders, poor fine and gross motor coordination, swallowing disorders, or speech delay are all the result of the basic motor disorder. The way they present varies from child to child. For that reason, it is difficult to describe a clinical picture that will satisfy every child with cerebral palsy. The clinical presentation, even though with many common features, is very much unique for a particular child. In addition, the comorbid conditions add more to the uniqueness of the presentation of the child with cerebral palsy. For example, some children may be blind, while others may have normal vision; or some children may have a severe cognitive delay while others may have normal or near normal cognitive level.
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Cerebral Palsy Treatment:
Even though CP can’t be cured, a variety of treatments can help people who have CP to make the most of their abilities and physical strength, prevent complications, and improve their quality of life.
Specific treatment varies by individual and changes as needed if new issues develop. In general, treatment focuses on ways to maintain or improve a person’s quality of life and overall health.
Regular visits with your child’s doctor and specialists are important for monitoring your child’s condition.
Treatment for CP includes:
- Physical therapy, which can help your child become as mobile as possible.
- Medicines, which can help control some of the symptoms of CP and prevent complications. For more information, see Medications.
- Certain kinds of surgery, which may sometimes be used for a child with severe problems. For more information, see Surgery.
- Devices and equipment, such as braces, casts, and splints.
- Pain management. For more information, see the topics Pain Management and Chronic Pain.
Physical therapy and special equipment may be used together, such as for constraint-induced movement therapy, also called shaping. This encourages a child to increase movements by presenting interesting activities or objects and giving praise and rewards when a child attempts to use the less-functioning muscles.