This is no standard treatment plan or type of treatment for children with cerebral palsy. Depending on the conditions that caused the cerebral palsy, its symptoms can vary dramatically from person to person, and treatments must be customized individually. Although no treatment will repair the brain damage that caused the cerebral palsy or cure the condition, effective treatment from a variety of specialists can improve the person’s life and help them manage their condition as well as possible.
In general, the major goals of cerebral palsy treatment include:
- Improve mobility and motor control
- Provide increased independence and potential for self-care
- Enhance ability to communicate and interact with others
- Improve quality of life
Cerebral Palsy Specialists and Therapists
When a child has cerebral palsy, it is important that the family and the primary care physician develop a comprehensive treatment plan that will effectively address the primary conditions of their cerebral palsy, minimize pain and discomfort, and improve muscle control and independence. In order to do this, it is often necessary to receive help from multiple types of specialists and physical therapists who can provide exactly the type of attention, treatment, and care that the person requires. There are a number of different therapists that can provide effective treatment.
Physical Therapists: Of all of the types of treatments, physical therapy may be the most important, and those who are diagnosed with cerebral palsy will often begin physical therapy as early as possible. A physical therapist will work with the child to improve motor control, strength, and flexibility. Spasticity of muscles is often a serious problem for people with cerebral palsy, and though a physical therapist cannot completely solve this problem, he can help to reduce its effects.
Occupational Therapists: Whereas physical therapists help individuals with cerebral palsy learn how to better control their body in a general sense, an occupational therapist is more focused on improving strength and control of muscles for practical purposes. Occupational therapists focus on issues such as posture, mobility, writing and typing, and dressing. Occupational therapists can help improve a person’s ability to care for himself and increase his amount of independence.
Recreational Therapists: These therapists help children with cerebral palsy become more involved with sports, social activities, arts, and music. Those suffering from cerebral palsy may feel embarrassed or intimidated by participating in social events or taking on a hobby. This type of therapy can improve confidence and self-esteem.
Speech and Language Therapists: Some people with cerebral palsy have difficulties controlling their oral muscles which can prevent them from eating, swallowing, and speaking normally. Speech and language therapists can help children improve their speaking abilities and become more confident when communicating with others. In certain cases, they may also teach sign language and other alternative forms of communication.
Cerebral Palsy Drug Treatments
Depending on a person’s own condition and symptoms, drug treatments may be a helpful way to manage contractions, pain, and other issues. Some of the most common drugs prescribed to people with cerebral palsy include baclofen, diazepam, dantrolene sodium, and tizanidine. These treatments may help with spasticity, involuntary contractions, and stiffness.
Surgery for Cerebral Palsy
Though surgery is not necessary for everyone with cerebral palsy, in severe cases it can help to enhance mobility, ease pain, and improve quality of life. When spasticity is so severe that it makes walking and other everyday movements too difficult or painful, muscle or tendon surgery can sometimes improve the patient’s condition. Many people suffering from cerebral palsy would like to improve their gait. These types of surgeries can increase mobility, self-esteem, and independence. After a surgery, a person’s treatment plan, including therapy and medication, must be reevaluated to ensure that it is providing the right type of care.