Are There Treatments for Conditions Associated With Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy does not have a cure. However, treatments are available for the underlying medical conditions that cause cerebral palsy, as well as for associated health complications. Available treatments can improve quality of life and reduce the impact of cerebral palsy on an individual's life. Children with cerebral-palsy related epilepsy and seizures, for example, can receive treatments to control and prevent episodes. The following are several of the treatments currently available for conditions associated with cerebral palsy.

Physical Therapy

Cerebral palsy is a motor-function disorder. As such, physical therapy to improve motor skills, strength, coordination, and flexibility is one of the most effective cerebral palsy treatments. Receiving physical therapy at a young age can help improve independent motor functioning in the specific areas where a child displays limitations. Therapists personalize sessions to focus on the parts of the body where the specific patient needs therapy the most. Common forms of physical therapy for cerebral palsy include:

  • Stretching exercises
  • Strength and endurance training
  • Posture, walking, and standing therapies
  • Range of joint motion and flexibility therapy
  • Balance training
  • Movement therapy

Physical therapy focuses on improving activity limitations, alleviating mobility restrictions, and maintaining optimal physical function. Therapists can use hands-on techniques, assistive technologies, function training, and electrotherapeutic methods during physical therapy for cerebral palsy. Lifelong physical therapy can increase mobility and give someone with cerebral palsy greater independence.

Other Types of Therapy

Cerebral palsy patients can also benefit from numerous other types of therapies, often for life. Speech therapy can help patients who struggle with language skills, chewing, or swallowing. Behavioral therapy can address a child's emotional troubles related to cerebral palsy, including social issues. It can help children develop healthy coping mechanisms. Recreational therapy can also improve social skills, as well as provide a creative outlet (such as music therapy).

Occupational therapy is a common choice for patients who need to improve their skills to better adjust to school, a work environment, or life at home. Occupational therapy can help patients carry out everyday tasks and develop important life skills. Massage therapy can help patients heal, relax their muscles, improve flexibility, soothe tendons and ligaments, and rejuvenate the body.

Less-common forms of therapy for cerebral palsy patients include intensive suit therapy (the use of a special suit to improve muscle control and balance), hippotherapy (horse therapy to improve balance and strength), aqua therapy (promotes muscle tone improvement using water), and energy therapy (manipulating the patient's energy fields to improve overall well-being). Discuss the different therapies that may be right for your child with a doctor.

Medications

Many children with cerebral palsy take prescription medications to manage and reduce symptoms and pain. Muscle relaxants are the most commonly prescribed drug for cerebral palsy, to help reduce muscle spasticity and uncontrollable muscle movements. Baclofen provides long-term spasticity reduction, Dantrium works for severe muscle spasms, Botox can reduce spasticity in specific muscles (where injected), and Flexeril can relax muscles by targeted nerve impulses to the brain. Anti-seizure medications are also common, such as Dilantin and Depakene.

Surgery

Some children with cerebral palsy can benefit from surgery; however, orthopedic surgery is not always effective. The goals of surgical intervention in a cerebral palsy patient are generally to reduce the odds of health complications, improve mobility, and/or alleviate chronic pain. Surgery typically addresses complications arising from muscle spasticity that dislocates or tugs on joints. The most common cerebral palsy surgeries address conditions such as joint problems, muscle contractions or spasticity, scoliosis, hip dislocation, or tremors. Gastrointestinal surgery may also be appropriate depending on the candidate.

Living with cerebral palsy can be much easier with available treatments for associated conditions. Involving your child in various forms of therapy and discussing your options for medications or surgeries can improve overall quality of life.

Sources: