Cerebral palsy (CP) collectively denotes a group of neurological disorders that affect movement and coordination. The disease is caused by brain damage or abnormalities in brain development before, during, or after birth.

Physiotherapy is important for supporting people with CP and managing CP symptoms related to movement, posture, and balance. Physiotherapy can help improve motor skills and prevent movement problems from worsening over time. It can also allow children with CP to gain more independence with daily activities.

What are the goals of physiotherapy for CP patients?

The main goal of physiotherapy is to increase gross motor function or maximize functional control of the body by means of training.

Physiotherapy can:

  • improve patients’ existing motor skills and help them develop new ones
  • teach postural and movement skills
  • provide support with sitting, movement, and mobility
  • help strengthen muscles
  • lessen pain
  • support participation in sports, recreation, and leisure activities

How do physiotherapists assess patients?

After a preliminary diagnosis of CP, the doctor refers the child to a physiotherapist. Each child with CP will have different needs, so the physiotherapist does a thorough assessment by examining the child’s medical history and conducting a series of observatory tests. These tests assess various aspects of the child’s condition, such as physical strength, range of motion, endurance, joint integrity, breathing, posture, flexibility, and balance.

The physiotherapist may also consider guidelines from World Health Organization (WHO)  international classification of functioning, disability, and health – child and youth version (ICF-CY) document, which is designed to assess issues including muscle tone and strength, motor control, daily activities, quality of life, and outside influences such as family interactions.

A care plan is prepared based on the results, and goals for improvement are set.

What happens during a physiotherapy session?

A physiotherapy session can take place in a practitioner’s office, a rehabilitation center, a special classroom, or at home.

Typical exercises include those that help improve muscle control, manage spasticity, and prevent muscle tightening. Exercises that focus on sitting, kneeling, and standing can improve posture. Physiotherapists can give special exercises to infants to improve their mobility.

A physiotherapist may use assistive equipment or mobility aids such as braces, casts, splints, and shoe inserts to help with therapy. Research has shown that techniques such as constraint-induced movement therapy (CIMT) can be effective in improving upper-extremity movement. Physiotherapists may use electrical stimulation to improve gait and limb function, although studies have shown that functional gains are minimal.

The physiotherapist may also prescribe exercises for balance and posture, as well as stretches that can be done at home, school, or work.

What is the role of parents or guardians in physiotherapy?

Parents and guardians play a pivotal role in ensuring that physiotherapy is successful. Family and friends form an important support system for the child. Physiotherapists work closely with parents, guardians, and caregivers, and teach them ways of making sure the child is able to perform the prescribed exercises properly.

Parents’ constant interaction with the child and positive feedback while performing daily activities and exercises are crucial.

 

Last updated: March 9, 2020

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Cerebral Palsy News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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Özge has a MSc. in Molecular Genetics from the University of Leicester and a PhD in Developmental Biology from Queen Mary University of London. She worked as a Post-doctoral Research Associate at the University of Leicester for six years in the field of Behavioural Neurology before moving into science communication. She worked as the Research Communication Officer at a London based charity for almost two years.