What is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral Palsy describes a group of chronic conditions affecting body movements and muscle coordination. It is caused by damage to one or more specific areas of the brain, usually occurring during fetal development or infancy. It also can occur before, during or shortly following birth.
"Cerebral" refers to the brain and "Palsy" to a disorder of movement or posture. Individuals are not able to use muscles in an optimal way (palsy) due to injury to their brain (cerebral). Children with cerebral palsy may not be able to walk, talk, eat or play in the same ways as most other children.
Cerebral palsy is neither progressive nor communicable. It is also not "curable" in the accepted sense, although education, therapy and applied technology can help persons with cerebral palsy lead productive lives. It is important to know that cerebral palsy is not a disease or illness. It isn't contagious and it doesn't get worse. Children who have cerebral palsy will have it all their lives.
Cerebral palsy may cause increased muscle tone, reduced muscle tone, or a combination of the two (fluctuating tone). Cerebral palsy is characterized by an inability to control motor functions, particularly muscle control and coordination.
Depending on which areas of the brain have been damaged, people with cerebral palsy may experience one or more of the following:
There are three main types of cerebral palsy:
1. Spastic Cerebral Palsy – stiff and difficult movement
2. Athetoid Cerebral Palsy – involuntary and uncontrolled movement
3. Ataxic Cerebral Palsy – disturbed sense of balance and depth perception
There may be a combination of these types of cerebral palsy for any one person. This is referred to as Mixed Cerebral Palsy.
What can Keep Moving Forward Physical Therapy do for people with Cerebral Palsy?
At Keep Moving Forward, our physical therapists specialize in improving the development of the large muscles of the body, such as those in the legs, arms and abdomen (gross motor skills) which are typically affected by cerebral palsy. Our physical therapists help children with cerebral palsy learn better ways to move and balance. They will be able to help children learn to walk, use a wheelchair, stand by themselves or go up and down stairs safely. Our physical therapists will also work on developing skills such as running, kicking and throwing or learning to ride a bike.
We have seen an increased amount of success when our program is introduced to children in the first few years of life, or soon after the diagnosis of cerebral palsy is made. Our therapists use specific sets of exercises to work toward the prevention of musculoskeletal complications. The strenthening exercise aim to prevent the weakening or deterioration of muscles secondary to disuse. Our program will also help to avoid contractures, in which muscles become fixed in a rigid, abnormal position. Physical therapy will help prevent musculoskeletal impairments, as well as help your child perform common everyday activities with incorportation of the Therasuit ™.
Physical therapy is one of the most vital aspects of cerebral palsy therapy. The referral for physical therapy is often the first referral made in a child’s treatment plan. Our job is to help a child’s mobility to develop and to carry out and teach exercises designed to avoid contractures, bone deformity and unwanted movement.
A patient’s physical therapy treatment program will likely change quite a bit over the years, as one will probably not have the same physical limitations one had as an infant. At Keep Moving Forward, we are a progression based program, using milestones and other metrics to gauge achievements and then create new programs that will “re-goal” the patient.
Physical therapy can also help a child’s family through reducing stress caused by caring for the child. Much of what our physical therapist will do in their treatment program will be exercises that the parents are able to perform at home, making it a less daunting task to help the child’s development. Many parents attend their child’s physical therapy sessions. Parental attendance is helpful and encouraged by the entire Keep Moving Forward team for numerous reasons. Once comfortable, parents or caregivers can give the child much-needed positive reinforcement and a feeling of security.
Ultimately we will be responsible for improving all motor skills (and with a concentration on motor skills will be the development of gross motor skill), functional skills, pain management, gait analysis and training, balance, coordination, sensory integration, fitness, range of motion, and posture. We also will recommend adaptive equipment (mechanical aids) as well as orthotics, and assist with positioning and seating.