Exciting new research has placed physical therapy at the forefront of cerebral palsy treatment plans. Studies show physical activity reinforces neural pathways in the brain—pathways that are impaired in people with cerebral policy.
Cerebral palsy (CP) is a neurological disorder that affects muscle and body movement. People with CP experience a profound lack of muscle coordination due to irregularities in their brain’s muscle-controlling areas. This disorder generally appears in infancy or childhood and does not get worse over time. Neuroscientists now know the opposite is true: symptoms can be improved over time with the right physical therapy.
If you plan to enroll in physiotherapy courses, or you have recently started your program, read on for insight on the benefits physiotherapy can offer to patients with CP.
Physiotherapy Encourages Muscle Growth
Individuals with CP have the same amount of muscles as anyone else, but an impaired amount of muscle-movement neurological pathways. This means they can only control a finite number of muscles in their bodies. As a physiotherapy assistant, you will help improve the strength and dexterity of the muscles they can move, and discover any potential they have for moving others.
Once you have earned your diploma, you may be required to administer strengthening therapeutic exercise, manipulations, massage, mechanical equipment, and more.
For example, you may find yourself helping a child with CP exercise his or her leg muscles through assisted slow treadmill-walking. Your support would be setting the groundwork for the child to later walk as independently as possible.
Graduates of physiotherapy schools know the importance of minimizing risk. Speaking with a patient or their caregiver is a necessary part of identifying physical limits. Professionals take extra care not to overexert people with physical disabilities like CP.
Physiotherapy Promotes Joint Flexibility
Reduced muscle mobility can often lead to stiff joints. When someone with CP cannot independently straighten their arm, a trained physical therapy professional may do it for them, providing comfort and relief.
A joint that is permanently tight or bent is referred to by industry insiders as being “contracted.” Physiotherapy involving massage can help soothe and even prevent contraction by alleviating tension and damaged tissue around joints.
Physiotherapy Improves Functional Mobility
A major challenge for those with cerebral palsy is physical mobility. Their reduced muscle control can make it difficult for them to get around independently. Physical aides like walkers and power chairs work in tandem with physical therapy to encourage a patient’s best possible freedom of mobility.
The types of movements and exercises you may help a patient complete will vary based on the person’s unique needs and extent of impairment. Physiotherapy assistant training teaches students the anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology knowledge they’ll need to implement each patient’s customized treatment plan.
For example, once you become a physiotherapy assistant you may use movement therapy with special constraint equipment to help a patient practice moving in a particular, deliberate way. This can help them accomplish various feats of muscle control.
Physical Possibilities of People with Cerebral Palsy
Having cerebral palsy does not mean a person can’t be athletic. With the help of skilled professionals, people with CP can go on to push personal physical boundaries and achieve their dreams.
For instance, in 2009, Bonner Paddock became the first person with CP to climb to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. In 2014, Stephen Wampler scaled the biggest rock face in the world (Yosemite’s “El Capitan”) with CP restricting muscle mobility in everything but his right arm.
“I wanted to prove to millions of physically disabled children that anything is possible,” he said.
When they have the right physical support, the sky’s the limit for people with cerebral palsy.