TheraSuit® and Cerebral Palsy
The TheraSuit is a soft canvas suit equipped with bungee cords designed to help children with various challenges increase muscle tone, enhance movement, and improve posture. This suit is sometimes considered a helpful option for children with cerebral palsy, as it directly addresses the challenges of neurological disorders.
How the TheraSuit Works
The TheraSuit, released in 2002, is an FDA-approved device that includes:
- Knee pads
- Shoe attachments
Adjustable elastic bands on the suit help align the body properly, providing external stabilization and support. The suit is modeled after the original suits used in the Russian Space Program, known as Penguin suits. These suits were designed by the Russian Center for Aeronautical and Space Medicine in the 1960s to counteract weightlessness in space. The suits used today, including the TheraSuit, have been modified to support those with disabilities.
The use of a TheraSuit is intended to accelerate functional goals when compared to similar physical therapies performed without the suit. The TheraSuit is appropriate for children who are at least 2 and a half years old and have a condition such as cerebral palsy. TheraSuit therapy can also help patients with Down syndrome, spina bifida, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, and sensory processing disorders.
Typical TheraSuit Program
Patients typically receive TheraSuit therapy through an intensive program lasting three consecutive weeks with three-hour sessions five days each week. The session often begins with massage and heat therapy, followed by simple range-of-motion exercises, and stretches. Each session includes a variety of different activities, including:
- Sensory integration techniques
- Strength training
- Balance and coordination exercises
- Gait training
- Motor planning
- Endurance training
- Functional tasks
- Supported or independent sitting
- Weight-bearing positions
Parents are typically permitted to attend the sessions, but involvement is limited until the last week when parents will learn strategies and exercises that they can use at home to maximize the benefits from the TheraSuit therapy. In the first few sessions, it’s often helpful for parents to leave the room so that therapists can focus on helping the child adjust to the newness of the suit.
Benefits of TheraSuit Therapy
TheraSuit therapy is designed to offer a wide range of benefits. These vary by child, as each case of cerebral palsy is very unique. Some of the things that TheraSuit therapy may be able to do include:
- Re-train the central nervous system
- Normalize muscle tone
- Correct the gait pattern
- Influence the vestibular system
- Realign the body
- Build strength in weak muscles
- Improve balance and coordination
- Improve hip alignment
- Decrease uncontrolled movement
- Encourage speech production and fluency
- Improve bone density
- Enhance body awareness
- Improve motor skills
- Increase independence with daily activities
For more details on how TheraSuit therapy may help your child, it’s best to speak with a trained physical therapist as well as your child’s physician. Understanding your child’s specific case of cerebral palsy, these professionals can offer a better assessment of the results that you might see.
How Effective Is the TheraSuit?
More studies are required to properly assess the effectiveness of TheraSuit cerebral palsy therapies. One review that compared 29 studies on suit therapies concluded that the major improvements available with these suits include:
- Proximal stability
- Gross motor function
To obtain results, individuals must carefully consider the patient’s needs, suit type, and intended use.
Another systematic review assessed 46 different studies. This review concluded that the low sample size, small number of studies, and great degree of variability made it difficult to conclusively prove the effectiveness of the treatment.
A review of 13 studies on therapeutic suits concluded that the TheraSuit protocols were very low for body structure and function. The activity outcomes for the TheraSuit offered very low-quality evidence. Though there is no evidence that this treatment is harmful; it simply hasn’t been evaluated thoroughly enough to prove its efficacy.
Considerations With TheraSuit Therapy
TheraSuit therapy isn’t appropriate for all children. Those with certain conditions may not want to pursue this type of therapy:
- Kidney problems
- Severe scoliosis
- Uncontrolled seizures
- High blood pressure
- Heart or circulatory conditions
Always speak with your child’s doctor before embarking on any new therapy.
In the right circumstances, you may find that TheraSuit therapy is a good fit for your child’s condition. TheraSuit therapy cost varies by provider, so it’s worthwhile to compare programs and find the best fit for your needs. Alternatives are available.
Though therapies like the TheraSuit may help patients with cerebral palsy make progress, the emotional and financial impact of CP on the family can be severe. If you believe that your child’s or loved one’s cerebral palsy may be the result of medical malpractice, you could be eligible for compensation that would help cover some of your medical expenses. You can learn more from the Cerebral Palsy Family Lawyers at Janet, Janet & Suggs, LLC. Contact us today.
Claire Surles, RN
Claire comes to JJS after a 10-year career as a labor and delivery nurse. She dedicated her hospital efforts to advocating for families, providing the safest birthing environment possible as Newborn Admission Nurse at UMMC St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, Maryland. Her passion for helping those who experienced losses at any stage of gestation led to her appointment as Coordinator of the hospital’s ROOTS perinatal loss program. READ FULL BIO