Cerebral Palsy - Treatment

Authored by Dr Colin Tidy, 04 May 2017

Patient is a certified member of
The Information Standard

Reviewed by:
Dr Anjum Gandhi, 04 May 2017

What is the treatment for cerebral palsy?

Children with cerebral palsy should be under the care of a specialised team which includes various healthcare professionals such as doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists. There is no cure for cerebral palsy but much can be done to limit the degree of disability that may have occurred if treatment had not been given.

Physiotherapy and occupational therapy

These are the mainstays of treatment. One main aim of physiotherapy is to (as far as possible) prevent or limit the contractures and limb deformities that can occur with spastic cerebral palsy. Physiotherapists also focus on range of movement, power and mobility.

Various techniques may be used, such as exercises, mobility training, braces, splints, etc (orthotics), and other equipment. A physiotherapist can show parents and carers the correct positioning of joints and which stretching exercises to do. If advised, these must be done regularly for the best chance of minimising problems.

An occupational therapist can enhance children's independence skills, such as moving on the floor, dressing and feeding independently. Occupational therapists can help with wheelchair recommendation and housing options to enable the person to live life to their maximum potential.

What about medication?

Medicines usually have a limited role. For example, botulinum toxin injections (in conjunction with physiotherapy) are used in some cases to relax spastic muscles. The most commonly injected muscles are the hamstrings, calf muscles and muscles that pull the hips together (hip adductors). The effect of a botulinum injection lasts 3-6 months.

Other muscle-relaxing medicines such as baclofen are sometimes used. Children with associated epilepsy need medicines to prevent fits (seizures).

Surgery

Depending on the type and degree of muscle contracture, an operation may help - for example, an operation to loosen tight muscles or to correct a joint deformity. The aim is to give more flexibility and control to the affected limbs and joints. Most operations are performed on the muscles around the hips, knees and ankles.

What about other treatments and therapies?

These may include speech therapy, vision aids, dentistry, communications aids, nutritional advice and promoting sport. Assistive technology is being increasingly used. There is a range of devices and gadgets that can help with communication, mobility and daily tasks.

Further reading and references

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