Cerebral palsy (CP) refers to a group of disorders that affect brain function, damaging the five senses of a human body – sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch. In common cerebral palsy cases, patients experience difficulty with body movement and coordination; the body feels weak and damaged due to muscle problems caused by the disorder. Research suggests that cerebral palsy is the most commonly occurring disorder in children. According to several scientific studies, this case of motor disability affects every 4 in 1,000 children worldwide.
Cerebral palsy is caused by abnormal brain development and injury before birth. It can also occur during or in the first few years following delivery. Although the initial damage caused by cerebral palsy cannot be reversed, timely treatments can help a patient fight the effects of the disorder. A standard cerebral palsy patient requires several different types of treatment to deal with the disorder’s symptoms and improve the function of the body’s musculoskeletal system. According to experts, the following four treatments can help improve the patient’s condition significantly:
- Physical Therapy And Rehabilitation
Once a child is diagnosed with cerebral palsy, most doctors recommend physical therapy and rehabilitation as the first step of the treatment plan. Next, doctors administer different types of Therapy mentioned in the Cerebral Palsy Guide to help improve a child’s ability to perform everyday tasks. Usually, this process begins with therapists evaluating a baby’s motor skills, perception, and oral skills. The results of the evaluation help therapists create a customized treatment plan for the cerebral palsy patient. Here are all the essential types of therapies involved in treating a child with cerebral palsy by improving their muscle function and abilities:
- Physical Therapy involves exercises and activities that help an infant maintain or improve muscle strength, balance, and movement. Typical activities include teaching a child how to sit, walk, and hold things.
- Occupational Therapy involves actions that help a child learn to perform everyday activities. Routine actions include dressing up, eating, and washing.
- Recreational Therapy involves activities that encourage a toddler to participate in programs that enhance a child’s physical and intellectual skills. For example, most kids are coaxed into engaging in sports competitions and art programs.
- Speech and Language Therapy involves exercises that help a child learn how to speak and communicate more clearly. Often sign languages and unique communication devices enhance a child’s ability to learn more effectively.
If the condition of a cerebral palsy patient doesn’t seem to improve with Therapy, doctors advise pairing therapy exercises and activities with medication. Usually, medication is administered to deal with mobility issues primarily. Various types of medicines with minimal side effects are prescribed to a child to help counter challenges put forward by cerebral palsy. The prescription varies from patient to patient, given their unique situation and circumstances.
There is no said pattern that cerebral palsy patients seem to follow when their condition deteriorates. Some children showcase an excess of involuntary movements and reflexes, while others experience an alarming amount of seizures and tremors. Therefore, doctors use their resources and expertise to carefully evaluate a child’s unique symptoms and issue preventive medication accordingly. Typically, a patient with cerebral palsy is treated for the following medical conditions:
- Acid reflux – a condition in which acidic gastric fluid flows backward (from the stomach into the esophagus), causing heartburn
- Incontinence – a condition in which the body is unable to control the evacuative functions of urination or defecation
- Involuntary movement – a condition in which the body moves in an uncontrollable and unintended way
- Respiratory disorders – a condition in which lungs and other parts of the respiratory system are severely affected
- Seizures – a condition in which the brain experiences uncontrolled electrical disturbance causing changes in behavior and feelings
- Spasticity – a condition in which the body experiences abnormal muscle tightness associated with brain or spinal cord damage
- Tremors – a condition in which the body starts to shake or quiver involuntarily
If a cerebral palsy patient exhibits severe symptoms, they may need surgery to treat the disorder. Cerebral palsy refers to a motor disability, meaning that the patient experiences weakness or problems when moving their muscles. A surgery helps loosen contracted muscles, lengthen stiff skin, improve the position of arms and legs, and enhance the spine’s posture to help the patient improve muscle mobility. During surgery, surgeons also tend to cut specific problematic nerves in the body that cause abnormal, spastic movements in a cerebral palsy patient.
Before a surgeon conducts surgery on a child with cerebral palsy, they must familiarize themselves with the unique situation and circumstances of the patient. In addition, a health care provider must always analyze whether the procedure will benefit the child in the long term or disrupt the biomechanics of their muscles and joints even more. Finally, after careful evaluation and consultation of each factor, the doctor should say yes to orthopedic surgery or selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) to improve a child’s mobility and treat pain points.
- Orthotic Devices And Assistive Aids
When all else fails, doctors often recommend orthotic devices and assistive aids to a cerebral palsy patient for lifelong assistance in improving limitations and preventing complications. Usually, this happens when a child’s condition doesn’t seem to be improving with Therapy or medications, and the option of surgery is too complicated in their case. While it is the last option individuals might want to go for, devices and aids seem like the best resort in some cerebral palsy patients.
Technology these days has advanced way beyond what an ordinary mind can process. Scientists and experts have succeeded in building artificial human organs; therefore, making artificial organ substitutes to help improve movement and balance is now a prevalent option. In today’s world, cerebral palsy patients are provided with everything to enhance movement and posture – from as conventional as wheelchairs to as advanced as limb-supporting casts. Some examples of these assistive technology devices and aids include:
- Eyeglasses and lenses
- Hearing aids and special computer-based communication machines
- Walking aids – Velcro-fastened shoes and crutches
- Body braces – braces, splints, and casts
- Wheelchairs, rolling walkers, and powered scooters
While considering and researching cerebral palsy treatments, individuals should never forget that every case is different. A treatment that worked for one cerebral palsy patient doesn’t necessarily have to work for all; the ideal treatment for this disorder varies from child to child, depending on their unique circumstances. One recommendation for all cerebral palsy patients is to consult with a professional cerebral palsy specialist. An expert can help people determine the best treatment option for a patient among the choices mentioned above by considering a child’s specific needs and complications.