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Being a parent, whether it is for the first time or not, is a daunting experience. Having a child with a physical impairment can make that experience more difficult. Conditions like Cerebral palsy, an umbrella term for damage to the brain during pregnancy, birth or early childhood will have a life long impact on the child and the parents. Before we talk about how physiotherapy can help with Cerebral palsy, its useful to outline exactly what Cerebral palsy is.
What is Cerebral Palsy?
As mentioned above, Cerebral palsy is a blanket term for any non-progressive brain injury sustained during pregnancy, birth or early childhood. The injury can result in abnormal development and damage to nerve signals from the brain to the muscles. This causes difficultly with movement, posture and co-ordination. As Cerebral palsy covers damage to any part of the brain, symptoms can range dramatically and will vary from person to person. Sometimes there is no obvious reason why a child has Cerebral palsy. Some of the main cases can be:
- A genetic abnormality,
- Lack of oxygen to the brain,
- Infection in the early stages of the pregnancy, and
- Abnormal brain development.
What do you mean Cerebral palsy is not a progressive condition?
Because the injury to the brain does not change, Cerebral palsy is not a progressive condition. But… the effects of Cerebral palsy can change over time. Symptoms of the condition can change from growth spurts, changes in activity levels and illness.
Physiotherapy for children with Cerebral palsy
Physiotherapy plays a significant role in supporting children with Cerebral palsy. Treatment can start around the same time as diagnosis with the long term aim of helping the child be as mobile and independent as possible. Physiotherapists will help promote the child’s physical development such as sitting, crawling and walking. As mentioned before, symptoms vary from person to person so your physiotherapist will aim to put a tailored treatment programme in place to meet each child’s specific needs. A treatment plan will aim to:
- Increase muscle strength,
- Activate muscle groups not currently being utilised properly,
- Improve postural alignment,
- Reduce the risk of falls through work on a child’s balance and gait re-education,
- Teach stretching exercises to decrease muscle tightness and ease spasms, and
- Improve mobility though physical activity designed to mimic play.
When you see your physiotherapist, they will assess your child’s condition and recommend a treatment plan. Like all medical professionals, anything discussed with our physiotherapists will always remain completely confidential.
On going physiotherapy help for children with Cerebral palsy
It is understand that children with Cerebral palsy will spend more time at home than with a physiotherapist. Your physiotherapist can also give advice to parents on managing the effects of the condition at home. As your child grows, physios can continue to provide advice, help increase strength and movement and solve problems, such as maintaining mobility or getting involved in sports, as they arise.
Can a child with Cerebral palsy play sports?
Your physio therapist can advice you on the best sports and leisure activities for your child to get involved in. Participation in adaptive sports and similar activities can give children a sense of inclusion as well as strengthen key muscle groups. For further details on sports for children and teens with Cerebral palsy, you can read the information on Cerebral PalsyGuidance.
NHS: A fantastic resource on the causes, types and symptoms of cerebral palsy
Scope: A UK disability charity with a focus on cerebral palsy. Helpline: 0808 800 3333
CerebralPalsy.org: A great resource of information on Cerebral Palsy in children as well as how physiotherapy can help.
Contact: UK charity for families with disabled children Telephone: 020 7608 8700
Featured image: Pexels