What Natural Treatments Are Available for Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy can present with a host of symptoms, many of which can negatively affect the quality of your child’s life. Although there isn’t a cure for CP, there are many different treatments, specialists, and medicines that can alleviate its symptoms.
Some doctor-prescribed drugs for cerebral palsy can have harsh side effects—which is why many families choose to supplement their treatment plan with natural therapies and home remedies for cerebral palsy management. While alternative therapies should never replace your child’s doctor-recommended treatment, they may help ease symptoms, including alleviating pain, increasing mobility, and providing relief for some of the conditions associated with CP. For that reason, some parents choose to include homeopathic therapies to complement their child’s CP treatment plan.
What Are Some Examples of Natural Treatments Available to Treat Symptoms of CP?
Homeopathic or natural practitioners use remedies derived from natural substances in order to treat the symptoms of cerebral palsy. Some of the more popular natural treatments for CP include:
Also referred to as equine therapy, hippotherapy involves the use of horses, which can help improve mobility and muscle tone in children with cerebral palsy. Over time, the body adapts to the rhythmic motion of the horse’s gait, resulting in new natural motor responses and improved movement for children with CP—even while not riding. Because of the bond that develops between a horse and rider, hippotherapy can be emotionally rewarding as well.
Individuals with cerebral palsy have problems with muscle tone and motor skills. This can cause nutritional and growth deficits because of swallowing and feeding problems that are caused by weakness in the throat, jaw, tongue, and facial muscles. That’s why it’s so important that patients with CP have a nutritious, carefully balanced diet that can improve weight gain and growth, as well as immune function, circulation, and cognition. A nutritional evaluation will help enforce a balanced diet that focuses on foods rich in calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus, and other essential vitamins and minerals.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential not just for a baby’s brain development but for the maintenance of their brain function throughout life. Children with cerebral palsy may experience learning difficulties and developmental delays, which means they can especially benefit from omega-3s. These fatty acids can help improve cognitive functions like memory and learning, as well as bone health, which is beneficial for impaired mobility.
Fish oil is high in omega-3s, which improve communication and response within the nerves and promote healthy brain tissue development. In fact, one study showed that early use of omega-3 (in combination with B12 vitamin) created positive results in children with cerebral palsy. For children with fish allergies or families who choose not to ingest fish or animal products, there are alternative supplements that are fish-free.
Essential oils are certain compounds extracted from plants that capture the plant’s essence, including its scent and flavor. Plant leaves, seeds, barks, roots, and rinds can all produce essential oils, many of which have medicinal or healing properties. Families use the holistic, soothing properties of essential oils as an alternative to pharmaceutical drugs that often contain harmful side effects. Some of the most commonly cited essential oils for children with CP include ginger, copaiba, chamomile, peppermint oil, vetiver, and lavender.
By applying direct pressure to the body and manipulating or stimulating muscles and connective tissues, massage therapists can help ease the symptoms of CP, such as muscle stiffness. Massage increases blood flow and can stimulate circulation; it can also alleviate pain, help with sleep issues, and promote overall well-being.
This centuries-old exercise for the mind and body is a great way to help strengthen muscles in a gentle way that can be adapted for a range of ages and ability levels.
Yoga helps to strengthen muscles and improve balance and motion range in the joints, which are all extremely important for children with cerebral palsy. Regular yoga also offers the relaxing mental aid of meditation and breathing focus, which is essential for helping regulate emotion and mood. Yoga can be adapted to people of all capabilities, including in the form of chair yoga.
The possible benefits of yoga for children with CP include:
- Improved respiration
- Better motor coordination and mobility
- Increased muscle tone
- Improved focus and concentration
As a motor disorder, cerebral palsy can cause lifelong issues with movement and physical function, resulting in muscle weakness, joint inflammation, and neck and back pain. To reduce the discomfort and pain associated with cerebral palsy, many families have incorporated acupuncture as a complementary therapy, which may improve neurological functioning and muscle hypertonicity.
When a practitioner stimulates specific points on the body, it activates the body’s nerves and connective tissue, which helps the body produce the chemicals that are naturally released with pain relief and the reduction of inflammation. While many practitioners continue to use the traditional method of using very fine needles to penetrate the skin, today’s manipulation of the body’s acupuncture points may be through manual pressure, electrical stimulation, laser, heat, and even ultrasound for application.
Although numerous studies have been published, the safety and efficacy of acupuncture for patients with cerebral palsy is still uncertain. Usually considered safe if the practitioner’s technique is sterile, some people seem to find it helpful.
What Are Some Things to Keep in Mind About Natural Treatments for CP?
First and foremost, understand that natural treatments are not meant to replace the advice of your child’s physician, nor are they meant to replace traditional treatments and medicine which may be necessary for your child’s progress. Rather, natural treatments are meant to complement the treatments and therapies recommended by your doctor. It is important that you consult with your child’s care team and trusted professionals before using any particular treatment.
It is also important to know that some treatments, like dietary supplements or essential oils—including all-natural herbal products—may be dangerous by themselves or interact with other products or medications. While there is no cure for cerebral palsy, natural treatments can be effective at managing symptoms such as pain and spasticity. Though they may not work for every case, they are generally considered low-cost and safe for long-term use, promoting holistic health with minimal inherent risks.
Experienced Cerebral Palsy Attorneys Who Care About Your Case
If you suspect that your child’s cerebral palsy was the result of medical error, the Cerebral Palsy Family Lawyers at Janet, Janet & Suggs are here to help. Contact us today to discuss your potential case, and let us help move your family forward.