recommended treatments and therapies to help children with CP
Once your child receives a diagnosis of CP, it is important to begin both treatment and therapy as soon as possible. Starting intervention at the early stages of CP can potentially minimize symptoms of the disorder and will help improve your child’s quality of life.
While we have provided a comprehensive list of treatments and therapies below, it is intended to be a brief introduction to the many options offered to help children with CP. We encourage you to talk about the specifics of each with your doctor before beginning any treatment plan. He or she will provide guidance as to which will best address your child’s specific needs.
Cerebral Palsy Treatments
Children who suffer from a birth injury are given a head cooling treatment immediately after they are born to alleviate possible life-threatening damage, such as CP. It is important to note that head cooling does not specifically indicate a CP diagnosis; it is rather an immediate treatment given a child who suffers from some type of birth injury. Whenever a birth injury occurs, questions surface as to what caused the injury. While birth injuries occur naturally, they can also be caused by the medical negligence or malpractice of the hospital staff. It is highly recommended to get a second opinion of your medical records from a trusted, knowledgeable medical personnel. This individual will check your medical records to identify what went wrong in the birthing or delivery process that resulted in the need for head cooling.
Although not all cases of CP require medication, there are many that do. Today, there are multiple types of medications used to help manage a variety of conditions including seizures, spasticity, or gastrointestinal issues. These medications may be delivered orally with the help of a feeding tube or through an implanted pump.
Surgical intervention is typically a last resort when medications, therapy, or other interventions fail to have a positive impact. Surgical intervention becomes utilized to loosen tight muscles and release fixed joints. Surgery can also taken advantage of to bring relief to a spasm or help with orthopedic issues such as hip dislocation.
Cerebral Palsy Therapies
Physical Therapy is known as the cornerstone for cerebral palsy treatment, used to rehabilitate muscles and the musculoskeletal system. Physical therapy typically begins in the first few years of life, or soon after the diagnosis is made. This specific form of therapy utilizes a variety of equipment and exercises to improve patient’s mobility.
There is no standard therapy that works for every individual case affected by cerebral palsy. Physical therapy programs use specific sets of exercises specifically catered to each patient’s needs. There are two main goals associated with this type of therapy. The first includes preventing disuse atrophy, meaning the weakening or deterioration of muscles that are not being used. The other main goal is to prevent contracture, which happens when the muscles become fixed in a rigid, abnormal position. Early detection and management of muscular problems is crucial in early childhood development.
Speech Therapy is defined as the treatment of communication disorders. Those that work in the field of communication disorders are known as speech therapists and speech-language pathologists. Therapy sessions may consist of a series of exercises and drills designed to strengthen the muscles involved in speech and swallowing, constantly improving oral motor skills. Speech therapy may also include sign language and the use of picture symbols or augmented and alternative communication devices.
Occupational Therapy (OT) and rehabilitation deals primarily with muscles responsible for the following; wrist, hand and finger movements, facial expressions, along with tongue movement and swallowing reflexes. Occupational therapists are trained to help patients acquire or improve daily living skills needed for self-care, work and play. Occupational Therapy uses a regiment of exercises, adaptive equipment, and training to help a child realize goals and independence.
Also referred to as “talk therapy,” psychotherapy can improve behavioral issues, provide encouragement, improve self-esteem, reinforce positive message and stop negative behaviors. Therapists sit down with both you and your child to explain the situation and offer potential coping skills.
Cerebral Palsy Alternative Therapies
Therapeutic (subthreshold) Electrical Stimulation
Also called neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NES), this therapy pulses electricity into the motor nerves to stimulate contraction in selective muscle groups. Many studies have demonstrated that NES appears to increase range of motion and muscular strength.
Threshold Electrical Stimulation
This therapy includes the application of electrical stimulation at intensities too low to stimulate muscle contraction. Threshold stimulation is controversial due to studies’ inability to demonstrate its effectiveness or any significant improvement with its use.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Some children developed cerebral palsy as the result of brain damage. Proponents of hyperbaric oxygen therapy propose that the brain tissue surrounding the damaged area can be “awakened” by forcing high concentrations of oxygen into the body under greater than atmospheric pressure.
Finding the Right Mix
As parents, it is our job to acquire as much knowledge as possible regarding different treatment and therapy options for our children. However, no amount of research can replace the advice of a qualified doctor. Determining the right combination of treatments and therapy is best achieved through close collaborations between yourself and your child’s doctors and caregivers.
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