Cerebral palsy has no cure, but treatments for the condition are available. These treatments can help reduce spasticity and improve quality of life. If your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, the best thing you can do to help them is to create a team of professionals that will work together and with you to improve your child’s symptoms, including an occupational therapist. A typical symptom of cerebral palsy is spasticity, which occupational therapy can help.
What Is Spasticity?
Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common type of the condition. In this type of cerebral palsy, the muscles feel stiff and, when they move, it may appear that they are jerky. The condition causes increased muscle tone, or spasticity, which is a form of hypertonia. For people with spasticity, movement can be difficult or even impossible.
Symptoms of Spastic Cerebral Palsy
A common symptom of spastic cerebral palsy is a child that walks with a “scissor gate.” In other words, the child appears to be crouching because their legs, hips, and pelvis are constantly flexed. They may also move their legs in a scissor-type motion as muscles pull their legs together. Some children with spastic cerebral palsy constantly walk on their tiptoes.
Someone with spastic cerebral palsy may also suffer from muscle spasms as well as a condition known as clonus. This is a series of involuntary muscular contractions and relaxations that are rhythmic and can cause pain as well as stress on the muscles. Many people with clonus develop early onset arthritis and tendonitis.
How Occupational Therapy Helps
Although occupational therapy may focus on helping someone move into a new career or adjust to a current career after an illness or injury, the therapy also helps children with spastic cerebral palsy learn daily tasks such as feeding, grooming, dressing, toileting, and moving from one location to another. The purpose of occupational therapy for spasticity is to improve independence and provide the child with life skills.
Methods of Occupational Therapists
The goal of an occupational therapist is to provide your child with as many skills as possible to allow for independence. They also work to help the child complete these tasks without the need of adaptive equipment as much as possible. In order to promote learning these skills, an occupational therapist uses the following tools:
- Adaptive tools when necessary
- Assistive technologies when necessary
- Cold and/or heat
- Household items
- Interactive play
- Stretching exercises
- Toys designed to promote motor function
The therapist may also suggest medications that have proven to reduce spasticity as well. The main goal of the occupational therapist is to encourage day-to-day movement that will promote independence.
Importance of Spasticity Treatment
Spasticity can cause problems with daily living, including personal hygiene and nutrition. If left unaddressed, spasticity can lead to muscle spasms, difficulty sleeping, poor seating positions, pain, bony deformities, and, if the person was able to walk, an impaired ability to do so over time. Over time, soft tissues can shorten making it difficult to stretch the joint.
If your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, it is important to remember that CP treatment is different for every individual. You can visit this website to learn more about why starting therapy early on is crucial in ensuring a certain grade of independence.
Through a combination of therapy and medication, your child’s spasticity may be relieved to a certain degree, which can allow them to enjoy a fuller life and reduced pain. In some cases, surgery may also be recommended to reduce spasticity.