Cerebral Palsy is an all-encompassing term that represents a set of conditions that are characterised by different motor disorders: muscle coordination challenges and/or postural and movement dysfunction. “Typically, muscle dysfunction and deficiencies of movement do not grow worse over time,” says a teacher at Treloar. There is a 40 percent greater chance for boys to develop the condition compared to girls.

Cerebral Palsy Types

There are three distinct kinds of cerebral palsy.

  1. Ataxic cerebral palsy features poor balance and coordination.
  2. Dyskinetic cerebral palsy involves slowing of bodily movement and/or involuntary writing motions (controlled choreal).
  3. Spastic cerebral palsy involves painful contractures and muscle rigidity.

No matter what type of cerebral palsy it is, the likely cause is foetal brain damage in one or more parts of the brain. The damage can occur during early childhood (acquired), during infancy or the birthing process (congenital) or in utero.

If it develops after childbirth, in infancy the most likely causes are a viral or bacterial infection like meningitis, a motor vehicle accident, child abuse, trauma or fall on the head.

Some of the more common manifestations include breathing challenges, abnormal sensory perception, involuntary movement mobility or gait disturbance (frequently referred to as “crouch gait”) or muscle spasticity. Some other common manifestations include bladder and bowel challenges, skin disorders caused by sores, learning challenges, idiopathic seizures, speech impairment and difficulty feeding or swallowing.

Functional Markers

Childhood development has some common functional markers that may be witnessed in order to track cerebral palsy development:

  • At 2 months: Stiff legs that may cross when the child is picked up and/or difficulty breathing
  • At 6 months: Reaches with one hand only while the other remains in the position of a fixed position
  • At 12 months: Unable to stand up with support or not start to crawl
  • At 24 months: Inability to push or walk with a toy that has wheels

Cerebral palsy development has several different risk factors associated with it. Low birth weight and premature birth have both been directly attributed. Some of the risk factors that have been identified for in utero include RH blood factor that doesn’t match, viral or bacterial infections, placental abnormalities and deficiency in growth hormone proteins. During the birth process, risk factors that have been identified include head injuries and/or prolonged oxygen loss.

Although cerebral palsy is incurable, treatment options are still available. Since there are unique manifestations of cerebral palsy for every child, the key to helping a child is early detection as well as intervention. Major treatment options include complementary therapies such as massage, speech, occupation and physical therapy, computer technology for helping with communication abilities, walking aid devices such as braces and surgery for correcting physical abnormalities.

Massage for Cerebral Palsy Patients

One legitimate therapy option that can be used by cerebral palsy patients is massage therapy. One patient spoke about using massage as part of his treatment regimen. He stated that he focused on plenty of rest and a balanced diet. He noted that his days are not all spent in a motorised wheelchair and that the few massages he had so far were quite relaxing.

When treating cerebral palsy patients the major consideration will depend on the kind of cerebral palsy that the patient has.

Spastic cerebral palsy

Spastic cerebral palsy features contractures and muscle rigidity. Therefore, the treatment will emphasise relaxing muscles that are tight. Modalities which help to relax the muscle tissue will help these patients a great deal.

Dyskinetic cerebral palsy

Dyskinetic cerebral palsy involves the slow down of body movements and/or uncontrolled choreal. For those patients, it is critical to focus on producing a parasympathetic response. Bodywork for calming the body-mind-soul connection will greatly help the efforts toward curtailing involuntary movements. Another type of treatment that is applicable is fascial unwinding techniques for freeing restrictions that cause the slow down of bodily movements.

Ataxic cerebral palsy

Ataxic cerebral palsy includes poor balance and coordination. Great positive impact comes from improving mobility and proprioception in addition to strengthening muscles surrounding the joints to help with stability.

It can be challenging to address the crouch gait of a cerebral palsy patient depending on how pliable muscular tissue still is and how much mobility remains. The overall game plan here is freeing the legs and hips from the chronic flexion position along with restoring normal movement in the upper body, to specifically reduce trunk rotation and lateral arm swing.

Stretching techniques to help mobility limbs is another great augmentation to various bodywork treatments. Make sure to support joints well in order to avoid injuring moving limbs that are in a stretched position.