Cerebral Palsy Treatments

Common treatment options available for children with cerebral palsy.

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What Cerebral Palsy treatments are available?

There are many treatments for cerebral palsy. These are aimed at reducing the effects of cerebral palsy on movement and coordination, speech, communication, and learning.  Treatments include physical, occupational, and speech therapy, medications, surgery, and special education. All treatments have a goal to help a child suffering from cerebral palsy perform activities of daily living, become more independent, and have a fulfilling quality of life. 

Cerebral palsy affects each child differently. Therefore the types of treatment must be individualized based on the particulars of the child’s condition. The complications of cerebral palsy are almost always permanent, but their effects on quality of life can be minimized by rehabilitative treatments. The sooner treatment is started the better the chances for improvement. So, it is important that a child begins treatment as early as possible in order to maximize his or her quality of life.

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Cerebral Palsy Therapies

Rehabilitative therapies such as physical and occupational therapy help to improve strength, coordination, flexibility, and improve function in activities of daily living. Speech and language therapy help improve communication and learning.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is the first step in cerebral palsy treatment. It involves a series of strength training exercises geared toward improving muscle strength, balance, coordination, flexibility, motor skills, posture, and preventing painful problems such as muscle contractures and joint dislocations. The main goal of physical therapy is to keep the body strong and flexible to make everyday movements easier for children with cerebral palsy. A team of health professionals will evaluate the patient and create a treatment plan tailored to his or her specific disabilities and needs.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy helps children with cerebral palsy develop or recover the skills needed to lead independent, satisfying lives. Occupation refers to the activities that give a person’s life meaning. For a child, these meaningful activities include playing and learning. The child’s ability to play and learn is important for development and becoming independent.

Occupational therapy can help with muscle and joint coordination issues — issues that can make everyday tasks difficult. These tasks include eating, brushing teeth, and bathing. Occupational therapy can help to improve physical, cognitive, and social abilities, as well as fine motor skills and posture. This therapy can also help address difficulties with processing sensory information. Similar to physical therapy, a treatment plan will be tailored to the patient’s needs.

Speech and Language Therapy

Some children with cerebral palsy have difficulty controlling the muscles in their face, throat, neck, and head. This can lead to difficulty with speech, chewing, and swallowing. This may cause drooling and affect a child’s overall ability to interact with others and learn. Those who also have difficulty hearing may have a hard time understanding spoken language. The goal of speech and language therapy is to improve a child’s speech and communication by strengthening the muscles used for speech, increasing oral motor skills, and improving their understanding of speech and language. It also can help with swallowing disorders, like dysphagia. These therapies may also involve learning new communication technologies, such as computers and voice synthesizers. As children improve their speech and communication, they are better able to express their needs, share their thoughts, and interact with others.

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Cerebral Palsy Medications

Medications are used throughout a patient’s cerebral palsy treatment to address unique combinations of symptoms and disabilities. These medications may include antidepressants, anticonvulsants, anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, nerve blocks, botox, baclofen, anticholinergics, and stool softeners.

Spasticity Medication

The medications used in cerebral palsy treatment are to address involuntary movement and generalized spasticity –  an abnormal contraction of the muscles. These conditions are usually treated with medications that relax the muscle given orally, through injections, or administered continuously through a small pump.

Treatment for Uncontrolled Movement

Some children with cerebral palsy have abnormal movements similar to Parkison’s disease. These movements are treated with anti-parkinson drugs, anti-spasticity drugs, and muscle relaxants.

Seizure Medication

Seizure medications may also be included in the patient’s cerebral palsy treatment as injuries to the brain increase the chances of developing seizures. Seizures are abnormal increases in brain activity. Treatment involves slowing down brain activity and two common drug types used to treat these seizures include barbiturates and benzodiazepines.

 

Cerebral Palsy Surgeries

Certain neuromuscular complications of cerebral palsy may cause pain and affect movement despite medical therapy. In these cases, surgery may be needed to improve the patient’s quality of life.

Orthopedic Surgery

Surgical procedures are performed on children with severe contractures to return arms, legs, or hips to their normal positions. These procedures are also performed to lessen pain, improve mobility, and lengthen muscles and tendons that were shortened by contractures.

Neurosurgery

Neurosurgery may also help treat the complications of cerebral palsy. These procedures involve the placement of pumps to directly administer antispasmodic medications to the spinal cord, and selective removal of nerve tracts in the spinal cord or brain responsible for abnormal movements and spasticity.

 

Funding Your child's Treatment

Having a child with cerebral palsy and ensuring your child’s quality of life through treatment can present seemingly insurmountable costs. The burden of these costs however is not necessarily yours. Cerebral palsy may be caused by an injury that occurs shortly before, during, or after birth - with conditions leading up to injury that often could have been prevented. Understanding what caused your child to experience cerebral palsy, and who may have been responsible, will help you determine who is financially liable for the costs of treatment.

If your child is undergoing cerebral palsy treatment, and you suspect his or her injury could have been prevented, contact us for a free consultation to discuss whether we can help.

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If you or a loved one has been injured by someone else’s negligence, contact us immediately.

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