What Are the Treatments for Cerebral Palsy?

When your child is diagnosed with cerebral palsy (CP), early treatments can really improve his life. They will focus on ways to help him get around more easily, reduce pain and succeed at daily tasks.

CP can affect your child in many ways, such as the way that he walks, holds things, talks and eats. There’s no one-size-fits all treatment for the condition. The condition affects each child differently.

Once your child is diagnosed, his doctor will prescribe treatments based on his symptoms and the type of care that he needs. The doctor will want to see him on a regular basis to make sure the treatments are helping to improve the way that he acts and feels.

Your doctor will decide how frequent your office visits will be, based on how mild or severe the CP is, among other things. As a rule, children with cerebral palsy visit the doctor more often than other kids. They tend to have more health issues that require treatment.

Physical Therapy

Your child’s doctor may want to send him to physical therapy as early as possible so he they can learn how to move with better balance, strengthen his muscles or maintain his current muscle tone. He’ll do exercise to help stretch his muscles, which may reduce spasms. He’ll get a special exercise program that’s tailored to his needs.

Occupational Therapy

It’s harder to complete daily tasks like getting dressed, brushing teeth, using scissors and writing on the classroom board when you have movement issues. An occupational therapist can give your child extra help with chores like these, based on his own needs, to help him improve at the tasks that he does at home and at school.

Speech Therapy

Some children with cerebral palsy have trouble speaking well because the muscles that work their mouths are affected. If your child needs help, a speech and language therapist may help him learn to form words and speak more clearly. If your child isn’t able to speak, he can learn other ways to communicate, such as sign language.

If CP affects your child’s mouth and throat muscles, he may drool or have eating problems. Therapy that can teach him how to better control these muscles, including his tongue, and help to improve those issues.

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Devices

A device like a brace or splint may make it easier for your child to walk or move his arms. Other equipment, like special chairs, can help make your child more comfortable when he sits.

For more severe forms of CP, your child may need a walker, scooter, or wheelchair to get around, or special computer software to help him communicate if he is unable to speak on his own. There are even special-made tools like forks to pencils to make everyday tasks easier.

Medicine

Cerebral palsy often causes muscle spasms in different parts of the body. Your child’s doctor may prescribe medicine to relax those muscles and make it easier for him to move around with more control. The type of drug he will receive depends upon his symptoms and how mild or severe the condition is.

Some drugs, often for mild cases, are taken by mouth. Another drug is injected. And a medication for severe cases is given through an implanted pump.

Surgery

Children whose muscles are very stiff or spastic may have surgery to lengthen some leg muscles or tendons. This can make walking easier and less painful. Doctors may hold off on this type of surgery until a child has reached a certain age or level of development. This can help ensure that the surgery doesn’t lead to long-term problems.

Some children whose severe muscle spasms can’t be controlled with drugs, physical therapy, or other means may have surgery. The surgeon may cut nerves in the spinal column that are overactive. This can help the problem muscles relax, and it may lead to less pain.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD on March 25, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: “Cerebral palsy: Hope through research.”

March of Dimes: “Cerebral palsy.”

BMJ: “Cerebral palsy: what parents and doctors want to know.”

 

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