Physical therapy is often the first step in treating cerebral palsy. It can help improve motor skills and can prevent movement problems from getting worse over time. Physical therapy implements strength and flexibility exercises, heat treatment, massages and special equipment to give children with cerebral palsy more independence.
The extent to which physical therapy helps depends on the severity and type of each case of cerebral palsy. Children with milder cases of CP may only require some physical therapy to treat their condition. In more severe cases, it may be used alongside other treatments or medications. Beginning physical therapy as early as possible usually gives children the best chances at improvement.
Physical therapy can improve
- Pain management
- Overall health
The types of exercises used vary and have specific benefits for each type of cerebral palsy. Some of the benefits by cerebral palsy type include:
Spastic – Physical therapy can reduce the muscle tension and jerky movements associated with spastic cerebral palsy. Exercises such as stretching can even relieve stiffness over time.
Athetoid – People with athetoid cerebral palsy use physical therapy to increase muscle tone and gain more control over their movements.
Ataxic – There are exercises that can improve balance problems faced by those with ataxic cerebral palsy.