Cerebral Palsy Physical Therapy

Cerebral palsy is a progressive, yet non-contagious neurological disorder resulting from brain damage or malformation in a child’s brain development. While the original incident leading to the development of the disorder in a neonate does cause definitive brain damage, medical experts find that future devolution of the child’s brain does not occur, but rather, it is the physical symptoms of cerebral palsy that progressively worsen over the course of the lifetime of a cerebral palsy patient.

What Is Cerebral Palsy?

Specifically, cerebral palsy most commonly causes severe difficulties in muscle coordination and body movement, and unfortunately, cerebral palsy detrimentally impacts the learning, speech, and cognitive capabilities of a substantial majority of patients as well.

Without a Cure, Mitigating the Impact of Symptoms Is the Best Option for Cerebral Palsy Patients

Though the disease is permanent and may be the result of medical malpractice, abuse, negligence, accidents or infection. With the proper medical attention, cerebral palsy is typically highly manageable for patients and their families, especially much more so to date than ever before, with total care approaches to cerebral palsy patients being noted as significantly extending the lifespan of cerebral palsy patients over the past two (2) decades. Despite ongoing awareness, research, and support efforts underway, no known cure currently exists for the elimination of the prior neurological damage causing cerebral palsy. However, extensive sources of physical, cognitive, and social therapy resources are available and dedicated exclusively to helping cerebra; palsy patients cope with their symptomology.

Maintaining Individualized Physical Therapy Goals and the Necessity of Individualized, Collaborative Care for Each Cerebral Palsy Patient

Cerebral palsy functions as a blanket term including a complete range of physical impairments resulting from mild to severe brain damage. Holistically, each patient’s symptoms, treatment plans, and physical accommodations are unique to the individual, making it imprudent to develop general physical therapy goals and apply them broadly. Moreover, the basic aptitude and willingness of cerebral palsy patients can wildly vary from date to date, most often ascribable to ongoing medical complications and diminished social functioning found in many cerebral palsy patients as well. Unfortunately, management of the typical cerebral palsy patient takes a team of coordinated medical professionals, alongside an extremely proactive family that ensures rigid adherence to any proposed cerebral palsy physical therapy program as part of a patient’s individualized care plan.

Given the high vulnerability of cerebral palsy patients to secondary health complications, customized physical therapy action plans are developed in conjunction with attending medical practitioners and the patient or legal guardians. Physical therapists typically begin with an evaluation of the patient’s illness including mobility, strength, muscle tone, joint function, posture and oral motor skills. These medical professionals guide the child and family from infancy to adolescence towards practices to promote increased participation in home and community activates, motor skill development and independent living. Some patients eventually cease attending physical therapy sessions, while others continue treatment indefinitely.

Assessments and Cerebral Palsy Physical Therapy

To begin, physical therapists focus on the patient’s existing physical abilities to gauge the appropriate exercises and courses of action. Physical therapists aim to improve coordination, strength, balance, flexibility and independence. Depending on the severity of the disorder, patients may need to focus on one physical element more than another, but regardless, treatment is designed to help patients overcome physical limitations and improve overall quality of life.

Physical therapists may guide children towards exercises, positions and specialized cushions to maintain and encourage natural posture. When necessary, patients will be introduced to wheelchairs, scooters, crutches or other mobility aids to improve their participation in ordinary life events. Moreover, scoliosis and other spinal curvatures commonly develop in adolescent cerebral palsy patients, which is often treated with customized plastic jackets designed to prevent curvatures. Younger patients often begin with less strenuous of focused activities including play with certain toys or group play with other children.

Common Physical Therapy Approaches for Cerebral Palsy Patients

  • Neuro-developmental Treatment, otherwise known as NDT, is a clinical practice model utilizing recent research to individualize therapy based on an analysis of the patient’s rehabilitation and habilitation requirements. The physical therapist studies the patient’s posture and typical/atypical development to develop an in-depth understanding of the individual’s particular obstacles and devise a means of promoting independent movement and living.
  • Particularly useful for non-ambulatory patients, aqua therapy improves overall physical function while providing resistance necessary for the building of muscle tissue and tone. The environment safely allows patients to attempt new ranges of motion with reduced post session fatigue. Furthermore, physical therapists note a calming effect when young patients complete their exercises in bodies of water.
  • Strength and endurance training is essential for many cerebral palsy patients as the disease are acutely linked to underdeveloped muscles and motor function. Utilizing standards and specialized exercise equipment including treadmills and weights, physical therapists aim to combat muscle spasticity and increase the patients’ ability to pursue lengthy stretches of physical activity.
  • Stretching before, during and after physical therapy sessions often aid patients to alleviate joint and muscle pains while building strength and flexibility in the body holistically. Exercises might focus on posture, stability or mobility in accordance with the patient’s individualized therapy plan.

In all cases, parents of patients must be cognizant of the fact that a cerebral palsy diagnosis present an extremely questionable case in terms of whether medical malpractice did in fact occur, and in turn, that the sheer time length and dollar value of caring for a cerebral palsy patient over a lifetime (estimated to cost an additional near $1 million dollars over the course of a patients’ life) demands consulting with legal counsel as soon as possible. Damage or settlement figures would be geared towards ensuring that future medical costs, as well as those costs such as physical therapy, are covered by liable parties for past negligence.

 

References

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2390545/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17094192

https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02391324

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