Paired with an early diagnosis, physical therapy can work wonders for the development of a child affected by cerebral palsy. It can help boost motor skills and prevent further degeneration caused by the disease. Physical therapy has a long list of benefits not all parents are aware of.
When Should I Start?
When it comes to picking the right time for starting physical therapy after a cerebral palsy diagnosis, the sooner the better. But as your child gets older, therapy and any related treatments need to change. It is critical to start physical therapy when the child is a toddler, but the first school years (ages 5 to 12) are also a great time to try to improve the diagnosis too.
How Much Physical Therapy Does my Child Need?
How much physical therapy your little angel needs primarily depends on the severity of the diagnosis, type of diagnosis, and the child’s age. Talk with a therapist and work together toward a treatment plan based on your child’s mobility issues.
In mild cases, a blend of relaxing techniques, props, and exercises can work wonders on improving the young patient’s movement issues. In more severe cases, physical therapy may need to be paired with medication and other treatments.
Physical Therapy for Cerebral Palsy: Top Benefits
Physical therapy is designed to help children diagnosed with cerebral palsy achieve freedom of movement or a significant improvement in their mobility. Therapy is also designed to prevent common cerebral palsy issues like joint dislocations wreaking havoc on your child’s life.
A means of achieving these goals is keeping the patient’s body strong and flexible. If done right, physical therapy can bring a noticeable improvement in the affected child’s:
· Posture and gait
· Flexibility and strength
· Pain management.
Depending on the type of cerebral palsy affecting your child, physical therapy can help alleviate:
· Muscle tension and stiffness (in spastic cerebral palsy)
· Balance issues (in ataxic cerebral palsy)
· Mobility and muscle tone (in athetoid cerebral palsy).
Physical therapy can also help improve the outcomes in diagnoses closely related to cerebral palsy, such as:
· Back issues (scoliosis and lordosis)
· Pelvic issues (pelvic rotation, pelvic inclination, and pelvic obliquity)
· Motor issues like inability to naturally flex the hand or wrists
· Joint issues like abnormal knees caused by some pelvic issues
· Walking and standing issue triggered by Achilles tendon issues.
A therapist best knows how to adapt therapy to your child’s problems and needs. The condition may affect only the legs (diplegia), the upper part or lower part of the body (hemiplegia), or the entire body (quadriplegia).
Types of Physical Therapy for Cerebral Palsy
Depending on the severity of the diagnosis, physical therapy for cerebral palsy may include flexibility and strength exercises, special exercises and gear for improving gait and posture, massage, heat treatment, or a combination of several of these treatment options.
Universal exercises are focused on keeping the muscles flexible and strong even when the muscle tone is higher than normal. In spastic cerebral palsy, too much of the good thing can lead to stiffness and muscle tension, so it is essential to lower muscle tone to prevent spasticity. Patients with this diagnosis may also benefit from massage and heat treatments. If done correctly, these small interventions can prevent both muscle stiffness and corrective surgery.
Children affected by athetoid cerebral palsy will benefit from exercises designed to strengthen their muscles. If the child is affected by posture and gait issues, special exercises will help them achieve the right posture and walk with little to no aid. Babies can benefit from transitional exercise that will help them hit infancy’s major milestones sooner than estimated such as sitting up unassisted.
In severe cases physical therapy for cerebral palsy may need props such as exercise balls, swimming pools, electrodes to stimulate the muscles through electric impulses, resistance bands, and so on. A therapist knows best what your children needs or doesn’t need when undergoing therapy.
Physical therapy can have a tremendous impact on the quality of life of a child living with cerebral palsy, especially if it is done sooner rather than later. As many happy parents can confirm, physical therapy is a key component of any cerebral palsy treatment plan due to its tremendous benefits. But talk with a certified therapist first to help you tailor the treatment plan to your child’s needs and diagnosis.