Cerebral Palsy Treatment

What is Cerebral Palsy (CP)?

Cerebral palsy is a non-progressive neurological condition caused by damage to the brain during brain development, affecting 1 out of every 500 individuals in Canada. It is an umbrella term that describes a group of disorders affecting the development of movement and posture. Damage to the brain, due to genetics or developmental disorders, injury, or disease during pregnancy, during labour, or after birth can cause abnormal brain development, which interferes with the brains ability to properly control muscle movement.

Cerebral palsy has lasting effects on muscle function and the ability to move, which often limit the individual’s ability to participate in activities. Characteristics of cerebral palsy include decreased coordination, increased tone in muscles, increased muscle tightness and spasms, involuntary movements, altered walking patterns, difficulty with gross and fine motor skills, speech impairments, and altered perception and sensation. However, due to the type and timing of injury to the brain, each individual with cerebral palsy is affected differently with diverse motor challenges.

Physiotherapy for Individuals with Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is not curable, but it can be managed. Physiotherapy plays a valuable role in the long-term well being of the individual with the goals of optimizing participation and independence at home and in the community.

How does physiotherapy help?

In children with cerebral palsy, motor abnormalities are due to abnormal development of postural control and reflexes due to dysfunctions of the nervous system. Physiotherapists who specialize in treating children with cerebral palsy recognize that each child is different with unique needs. A thorough evaluation of the child’s movement patterns, abilities and limitations helps guide an individualized treatment plan that takes into account the child and the families goals. Treatment techniques are chosen based on what will provide the greatest benefit for the child, and can include exercise, stretching, and adaptive equipment to enhance motor abilities.

Physiotherapists are also a resource for parents. We provide information to the parents and teach them techniques that they can use at home as an adjunct to treatment.

Physiotherapy goals

Although each individual is different, primary goals for physiotherapy goal is to achieve greater independence and participation at home and in the community. Physiotherapists achieve this by targeting specific goals of

  • Increasing postural control
  • Increasing strength
  • Increasing flexibility
  • Greater mobility
  • Prevention of secondary issues, such as muscle weakening, muscle and joint deterioration, and contractures
  • Maximizing motor control of the body
  • Increasing gross motor function
  • Helping the child reach their highest potentials

When should one receive physiotherapy?

Any time and any age is appropriate for physiotherapy. Physiotherapy is often ongoing throughout life to address the changes that occur with age. With cerebral palsy, the sooner rehabilitation begins, the better it is. Early diagnosis and early intervention help optimize development, as many neural processes are still being developed in the first two to three years of life. Moreover, with age, physical and mobility challenges intensify due to increase in muscle tone, muscle weakness, and fatigue.

Most of all… physiotherapy treatment for children with cerebral palsy is fun and interactive!