What is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy, which is a developmental condition, can be managed through the use of both traditional and chiropractic care. Cerebral palsy, or CP, refers to developmental motor conditions that cause disability. CP is not at all contagious, and it is also not considered to be a disease. Although it is not genetic, most cases are caused around the time of pregnancy or birth, so they are typically congenital.
CP may be related to infection, radiation, or lack of oxygen during the development of the brain, as well as possibly being caused by premature birth and birth trauma. Damage can occur all the way up to the age of 3. CP, which is caused by a defect in the brain that is permanent but non-progressive, permanent, affects the patient’s bodily posture, movement, and muscle tone. Cerebral palsy is not paralysis, but the motor centers of the brain are affected. Depth perception and sight problems, cognition and communication difficulties, and musculoskeletal issues can all result from the development of cerebral palsy. All cerebral palsy types have abnormalities in muscle tone, as well as problems with motor development and reflexes.
Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy
Symptoms of the condition include spasms, spasticity, involuntary movement, and balance and gait problems, including “toe walking” and “scissor walking”. The degree of disorder falls on a continuum, from “slight clumsiness” to severe impairments. Babies with the severe forms of CP have bodies that may be stiff or floppy, with posture that is irregular. There may be other birth defects as well. Over the course of development, symptoms could gradually change, or new ones might even appear. It is generally when the baby first becomes mobile that the presence of cerebral palsy becomes more evident. Speech problems, from muscular and respiratory issues, can also commonly occur.
Some of the secondary conditions associated with CP are sensory impairments, eating problems, seizures, epilepsy, learning and behavior disabilities, mental retardation, and continence disorders. Speech impairments and language delays are also often involved with CP. Early intervention is necessary in order to help young patients begin to avoid inadvertently worsening the condition. Patients with cerebral palsy may also have different leg lengths and shorter stature, as CP affects skeletal bone development. Spasticity and gait problems affect vertebral development. CP can also interfere with sleep and cause pain.1
Long term care, from a team of specialists, can help patients with cerebral palsy manage their symptoms and gain greater ease in day-to-day life. The care can come from physiatrists, neurologists, orthopedic surgeons, physical and occupational therapists, development and speech therapists, and from social workers, special education teachers, and mental health specialists. Parents also need to be very supportive and help especially young children be consistent with their therapies. Because CP patients can have tight muscles, spasticity, and pain, some medications may be prescribed to help ease these symptoms. To treat “generalized spasticity”, muscle relaxants, such as baclofen or diazepam, can be offered. Some of these medications have dependency risk and side effects, such as nausea and sleepiness. Patients should consider these potentially harmful effects before regularly taking these medications.
For “isolated spasticity”, Botox injections may be used. The side effects of this method of relief include weakness, bruising, or even trouble swallowing and breathing. There are also anti-drooling medications. Some surgeries may also be suggested, such as orthopedic surgery or severing nerves. CP patients may also need to wear braces or splints, or have canes, wheelchairs, or walkers. The equipment necessary varies based on the severity of each patient’s condition. Muscle training and other exercises will also be prescribed, and these methods of treatment are likely to be done with the help of a physical therapist.2
While there is no cure for cerebral palsy, there are other options to help patients with managing it. Chiropractic theory suggests that extremities and other body parts can become “normalized” if the central area around the spine is healed. One study was able to find some evidence of paraspinal muscle tone showing improvement from the employment of chiropractic care for some children who had cerebral palsy as a result of birth trauma. Another case study showed marked improvement in a child with “hypotonic cerebral palsy”.
Chiropractic care, just like any type of treatment method, cannot truly cure cerebral palsy, but it can help the patient with managing and somewhat reducing the effects of some of the symptoms and problems. The advantage of chiropractic care is that it is likely to provide some help even without the side effects and risks which are associated with the use of drugs and undergoing invasive surgery. There are still cases where surgery might be necessary, however, and patients should seriously consider their options and consult with a doctor in order to decide whether an invasive method required. Chiropractic care is gentle, and it can also improve symptoms such as seizures, spasms, and arm and leg problems.3