Can a Walking Frame Help Children with Cerebral Palsy?
Children with cerebral palsy may struggle with movement, specifically walking. A mobility device such as a walking frame can help some children with cerebral palsy gain greater independence and walk comfortably on their own. Learn more about how a walking frame works, so you can decide whether this is the right device for your child.
What Is a Walking Frame?
A walking frame is a mobility device that has either three or four legs with rubber caps on the ends. These caps provide stability and grip where the frame comes into contact with the ground. Walking frames are available in several shapes and sizes to help accommodate the user’s needs.
Walking frames help support the lower body by providing a strong and stable point that the child can lean on. The user’s upper body takes over most of the job of supporting their weight when this type of walker is in use. To move forward, the user must lift the frame and reposition it in the direction that they’re moving. They will then use the frame for added support as they walk.
How Walking Frames Help with Cerebral Palsy
A walking frame can help children with CP by providing added support when they’re standing. A walker offers many benefits to children with CP, as it can:
- Make it possible for the child to enjoy independence and mobility that they cannot achieve on their own
- Help improve posture
- Improve the child’s balance
- Increase bone strength by allowing the child to bear weight on their legs
- Reduce the risk of osteoporosis and fractures by strengthening the legs
A walking frame may also be used as a standing frame when the child needs extra support to stand in one place. Standing frames offer support and stability as the child leans on the device. Using a standing frame, the child keeps weight on his or her legs which encourages the use of the lower extremities and may eventually lead to greater mobility.
With a walking or standing frame, a child with CP can stand at eye level with their peers, which helps with emotional and social development, as it puts the child on the same level as others. Using a standing frame can also:
- Improve bowel and bladder function
- Make the child more alert
- Help stretch the hip flexors and hamstrings
- Improve head control
Is a Walking Frame the Right Choice?
Each case of CP is different, so it’s important to consider your child’s individual needs and abilities carefully when deciding whether a walking frame is right for them. A standard walking frame requires your child to be fully weight-bearing with the ability to take weight-bearing steps. To successfully use a walking frame, your child must have normal arm strength and some upper body strength and coordination.
If your child isn’t fully weight-bearing or lacks arm strength, there are other mobility aids that may work better. Some of these options are outlined below.
Choosing a Walking Frame
If you feel that a walking frame is the right choice for your child, there are a few basic considerations that will help you choose the right product. Review the following:
- Size: Is the walking frame the right height to support your child when standing? If your child slouches forward, the walker is too short. If they have to strain to reach the supports, it’s too tall.
- Adjustability: Can the walker get taller as your child grows? Most walking frames are adjustable. Choosing an adjustable model will allow your child to continue to use it in the future.
- Can the walker support your child’s weight? Make sure the walker is properly rated to support your child’s weight both now and in the future. Look for a walking frame that can support at least 15 to 20 pounds more than what your child currently weighs.
Alternatives to Walking Frames
There are many other devices that are similar to walking frames which may aid children with CP. If your child doesn’t have the appropriate body strength to use a walking frame correctly, you may want to explore some of these alternatives.
- Rolling walkers: A rolling walker features wheels in place of rubber caps on some of the walker’s feet. This can make it easier to steer and position the walker as long as the child is fully weight-bearing and able to steer properly.
- Gait trainers: Gait trainers are similar to walkers, but provide additional points of support which may include a seat, hip harness and forearm supports. A gait trainer is appropriate for children who are only partially weight-bearing.
- Scooters or power chairs: Scooters and power chairs provide mobility for those who can’t support their weight. Depending on the design, these may be used indoors, outdoors or both.
Supporting a child with cerebral palsy can be difficult. If you think your child’s cerebral palsy may be the result of medical malpractice, compensation could be available to ease some of the financial expenses. Contact us today for more information.
Trish Fletcher, MS, BSN, CRNP, NNP-BC, ALNC
Neonatal Nurse Practitioner | Birth Injury Legal Nurse Consultant
Tricia is a dedicated, focused, Birth Injury Legal Nurse Consultant and Neonatal Nurse Practitioner with more than 25 years of experience. Her strong clinical and critical thinking skills, paired with expertise caring for neonates in a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), ensures meticulous medical records review. READ FULL BIO