Cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability in childhood affecting about 500,000 children under the age of 18 in the US. CP affects a child’s movement, muscle tone, and motor skills which hinders his ability to move in a purposeful and coordinated way. Although CP has no known cure, the healthcare industry has come up with various treatment options over the years designed to make life easier for children living with the disease, one of which is physical therapy.
How it works?
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to performing cerebral palsy physical therapy on children. Since the type and severity of cerebral palsy in children may vary, each case must be handled uniquely starting with a proper diagnosis. The physical therapist conducts various tests to assess the child’s severity of CP which may examine flexibility, balance, physical capability, sensory development, and reflexes to major body parts. After diagnosis, physical therapists can tailor treatment options based on where the movement issues are located. For example, some children may have movement issues in one-half of their bodies (hemiplegia), some in the legs (diplegia), and others in all four limbs and the torso(quadriplegia). Physical therapists can prescribe special exercises for hemiplegia, diplegia, and quadriplegia.
Types of physical therapies
Physical therapy is a hands-on treatment that must be carried out by a licensed physical therapist using means such as stretching, soft tissue mobilization, joint mobilization, specialized exercises, and endurance exercises designed to meet various therapeutic goals. Physical therapists often use various types of equipment including weights, bands, rollers, exercise machines, and balance balls. Some centers use sports and recreation activities like dancing or swimming to help children with CP develop muscles, balance, and range of motion. Adaptive equipment such as braces, walkers, orthotics, wheelchairs, or even computers may also be used during treatment.
Benefits of CP physical therapy
Physical therapy can have many benefits for a child with CP, his parents, and his caregiver. For the child, physical therapy makes it possible for him to move from one place to another and increases his overall health by strengthening his body in a way that makes functioning possible in a pain and stress-free manner. Physical therapy can also make it easier for a child with CP to use various types of adaptive equipment which gives him an alternate path to performing various tasks. Parents and caregivers also benefit from the reduced responsibilities as well as the joy that comes from seeing the child using his body to the best of his ability.
With the help of a licensed physical therapist, children with CP can potentially move from one place to another, play, and perform other functions independently like other children. Physical therapy empowers them both physically and emotionally, setting the stage for entering adulthood as independent individuals.
Cite this article as: Editorial Staff, "Physical Therapies for Children With Cerebral Palsy ," in Medicalopedia, May 12, 2020, [Permalink: https://www.medicalopedia.org/8863/physical-therapies-for-children-with-cerebral-palsy/].