Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a wide term used to describe non-progressive brain pathology caused by injury to the brain during the foetal, at-birth, or postnatal period that results in activity and functional limitations. Depending on the severity of the condition, it can be associated with learning difficulties, seizures, speech and communication impairment, and problems with swallowing. If one side of the body is affected, it is called hemiplegia; if both legs are affected, it is referred to as diplegia; and if both arms and legs are involved, it is known as quadriplegia.

Symptoms

  • Global developmental delay.
  • Tightness of the joints and muscles, which could worsen with time and growth.
  • Weakness of the muscles.
  • Postural asymmetry.
  • Poor balance and coordination.
  • A limited ability to walk outdoors or function in the environment.

How Will Physiotherapy Help?

Physiotherapy plays a crucial role in the management of children with cerebral palsy. It helps by improving their:

  • Posture – This is achieved with a 24-hour postural management programme that involves the use of appropriate positioning systems and working closely with the multi-disciplinary team. For example, working jointly with complex seating/wheelchair services as well as speech and language therapists to ensure children are sitting optimally during meal times and prevent any risks of aspiration.
  • Muscle Flexibility and Strength – Stretching and strengthening exercises are used to achieve this improvement.
  • Cardiorespiratory System – An improvement in the cardiorespiratory system will have a positive effect on your child’s endurance and contribute to preventing chest infections.
  • Mobility – Through using the correct type of footwear, splints, and appropriate walking aids, mobility can be improved.
  • Participation and Increasing Their Independence in the Environment – This includes making improvements in transfers from floor to standing, stair climbing, and toilet transfers.

Joint working will take place with your NHS therapists as well as the members of the multi-disciplinary medical team. Feedback will be provided to the neurologists to assist them in decision making with regards to titrating medications such as baclofen and benzhexol, which are prescribed for relaxing tight muscles and managing spasms and movement disorders. These medications need to be meticulously titrated for them to be maximally effective.

Depending on the severity of cerebral palsy, children are monitored for their hip position and back posture by an orthopaedic surgeon. A detailed report will be provided to them which will contribute towards assessment for any surgical intervention. Joint working will also take place with the social services’ occupational therapist regarding home adaptations and the installation, moving, and handling of adaptive equipment. To summarise, work will be done towards improving your child’s functioning in the environment, which in turn will significantly improve their quality of life.

How You Can Help

You can help by making sure that the treatment programme and advice are adhered to and, wherever possible, integrated into your child’s daily routine. This will help to maximise the effect of the treatment and with achieving set goals. Encourage your child to participate in activities of daily living, such as dressing, bathing, and environmental transfers, as this will make their muscles work and help with motor learning. Ensure that educational staff are fully aware of your child’s needs and their role in contributing towards your child’s progress.

Prognosis

It varies from child to child, and depends on the type and severity of cerebral palsy. The aim will always be to make your child as independent as possible.

Contact us now, in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, to learn how our paediatric physiotherapy helps children with cerebral palsy.