Massage Improves Quality of Life for Cerebral Palsy Patients

The term cerebral palsy encompasses a group of medical conditions that are all characterised by a variety of motor disorders that include movement, postural dysfunction and coordination challenges. On average, the person will have a serious deficiency of movement and they will have dysfunction of muscles that will worsen over the course of time. Boys tend to have a 40 percent higher chance of developing cerebral palsy than girls do.

Types of Cerebral Palsy

There are three main types of cerebral palsy:

Spastic Cerebral Palsy:

This type features painful contractions and muscle rigidity.

Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy:

This type features involuntary writhing motions called controlled choreal as well as the slowing of the bodily movements.

Ataxic Cerebral Palsy:

In Ataxic cerebral palsy, the patient will present with poor coordination as well as poor balance.

Cause of Cerebral Palsy

Regardless of the type of cerebral palsy, the most likely cause is foetal brain damage in one or more places in the brain. Damage may happen while in uterus, during birth (congenital) or it may happen during infancy or lastly, early childhood (in this case it’s termed “acquired”).

When Cerebral palsy is acquired after birth, it’s likely due to a bacterial or a viral infection like meningitis. It may also be due to a fall, a trauma, motor vehicle accident or child abuse.

Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy

The first manifested symptoms are typically muscle spasticity, mobility disturbance or gait (typically referred to as a “crouch gait”), abnormal sensory perception, breathing difficulties, involuntary movements or idiopathic seizures. Other symptoms may include difficulty swallowing or feeding, learning challenges, speech impairment, bowel and bladder issues, skin disorder or other symptoms that involve the muscles.

Functional Markers

A child with cerebral palsy will typically manifest the following functional markers.

2 months:

Difficulty in controlling their head, stiff legs that will cross when they are picked up.

6 months:

They will only reach with one hand and keep the other hand in a fixed fist position.

12 months:

They won’t crawl or stand without support.

24 months:

They cannot yet walk nor can they push toys with wheels.

There are a variety of risk factors that have been identified in patients with cerebral palsy. These include premature birth or lower birth weight. While the foetus is in the uterus, there is a serious lack of hormone proteins as well as many placental abnormalities. There are also more bacterial or viral infections and the RH blood factor won’t match which has been identified as a risk factor. During the birth process, the infant may have a loss of oxygen or a head injury.

While not curable, there are many treatments available for treating cerebral palsy. Early detection and early intervention are key to helping these children get ground. As well as education support for children with cerebral palsy, there are  surgeries to correct any physical abnormalities, there are braces and walking devices that can be used to help with mobility issues. There is a vast amount of computer technology to aid in communication and there are a variety of complimentary therapies that will help such as physical, speech therapy, occupational therapy and massage therapy.

Massage for Cerebral Palsy Patients

Patients with cerebral palsy will benefit from massage therapy. Patients should also focus on a balanced diet and get plenty of rest. Many patients find that with regular massage therapy they are able to do more.

Major thing to consider when massaging cerebral palsy patients is the type of cerebral palsy that the patient has.

Spastic cerebral palsy features rigid muscles and contractions. Thus, emphasis must be placed on helping tight muscles to relax. Modalities will facilitate muscles relaxing and greatly aid in helping the patient find relief.

Dyskinetic cerebral palsy will feather uncontrolled or slowed body movement. Producing parasympathetic responses should be the ultimate goal in this type of patient. The bodywork should calm the mind and aid the body-soul connection. This can help the patient to control the involuntary movements. Facial unwinding methods will help the patient to be free from the restrictive movements.

In Ataxic cerebral palsy, the patient will suffer from poor coordination and poor balance. Emphasis will be focused on improving the joint proprioception and their mobility as well as improving the strength in the muscles near the joints to help in stabilising the patient.

Crouch gait may be challenging depending on how the patient gets around. It will be dependent on the tissue that is available. The plan will be to help free up the legs and hips from the flexed position and help to restore the normal mobility of the patient in their upper body as well. Reduction of lateral arm swing and the trunk rotation will also be addressed.

Stretching the body and limbs will be helpful in the treatments. Keeping the patient supported and supporting their joints to prevent injury is vital.