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Cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy (CP) is an umbrella term that is widely used to define the conditions that affect ones movement and coordination. Cerebral refers to the brain whilst palsy means a loss of ability or being unable to move body parts due to the problem with the brain. Contrary to popular belief CP is not a single condition but an umbrella term which is used to describe a wide range of conditions that lead to issues with movement. Cerebral palsy is a non-progressive disorder which means that the damage that has been done doesn't worsen and lead to further complications.

What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy arises when there is a fault or damage to the part of the brain that is responsible for coordination and movement. This fault or damage usually develops in the womb but it can occur during birth or shortly after. Cerebral palsy can range from being severe or mild and depending on the severity of damage that has been caused. The severity will determine whether the child can walk or talk and in severe cases there can be other problems such as epilepsy and learning difficulties. Mild cases are associated with the person being active and mobile with a slight abnormal gait and whereas a severe case can be associated with the person being wheelchair bound.

Causes of cerebral palsy

In the majority of cases the cause of damage to the brain which results in cerebral palsy is not known. It is thought that it could be hereditary and that genetics play a part but what is known is that there are a number of risk factors that increase the possibility of cerebral palsy.

The risk factors include:-

  • Infections during pregnancy
  • Low birth weight
  • Premature birth
  • Multiple births such as triplets or twins
  • Mothers medical conditions
  • Jaundice and kernicterus

Treatment for cerebral palsy

Physiotherapy is the main form of treatment for CP as it aims to limit and prevent limb deformities and contractures that may occur in spastic CP. Our physiotherapists use their extensive knowledge and experience to affectively treat CP. Treatment consists of:-

  • Postural realignment
  • Correct positioning of the limbs
  • Stretching exercises
  • Mobility training
  • Improving balance
  • Improve functional movements
  • Build up strength
  • Maximise independence

Strength training and conditioning in cerebral palsy

One of the roles of a physiotherapist treating cerebral palsy is to directly inhibit the spasticity. By allowing sensorimotor experiences this can have a direct effect on the sequence and patterns of movements. Only recently has it been recognised that muscle weakness plays a part in the pathology of cerebral palsy. Interventions such as botulinum toxin-A, orthopaedic surgery and selective dorsal rhizotomy aim to improve motor functions, muscle length and reduce spasticity. Following these invasive procedures it has been clinically proven that there is underlying muscle weakness which can contribute to abnormal motor functions. Therefore it is appropriate to include strength and conditioning programme into the rehabilitation of individuals with CP. It is widely thought that the major barriers of CP are motor functions and not the spasticity as muscular weakness is thought to be a contributing to the loss of motor functions.

Implementing strength and conditioning programme into a treatment plan can have a positive effect on the person as studies show that those who do so have made improvements in active range of movements of all their limbs but also showed gains in strength and endurance.

Due to the nature of cerebral palsy individuals usually walk in a typical way with internal rotation, adduction and hip flexion accompanied with knee flexion. Therefore it is thought that the antagonist muscles, the hip extensors, hip adductors and the knee extensors are in a lengthened state and can it can be assumed that these muscles groups are weak. By strengthening these areas it is thought to contribute to a more normal gait pattern.

Strength training is a functional way of improving motor functions and by implementing this as early as possible into a treatment plan can have a great effect on the individual as they progress into adolescence and adulthood.

The benefits of physiotherapy

For anybody that has limitations in their coordination and movement the goal is to regain or improve their physical mobility so that they can perform functional movements so that they can take a step closer to leading an independent life.

Our physiotherapists are specialised in treating CP and are able to develop a tailor made physiotherapy treatment plan that is constructed based on the child's needs. The main areas that are concentrated on are the ones that may cause the most issues and are problematic to the child's development. Such as:-

  • Reduced range of movement
  • Muscle and joint pains
  • Muscle spasticity
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Joint inflammation
  • Increase strength, endurance and flexibility
  • Improve gait cycle

      Our physiotherapists understand the importance of regular physiotherapy treatment sessions and the benefits that it can have for everybody involved. Our physiotherapists will teach the parents simple techniques that can be used daily so that the child can make steady but invaluable progress.

      If you would like more information, please do not hesitate to contact us on: 01923 388 453, or send an email to info@rehabwalk.co.uk