Cerebral palsy, a developmental condition, can be managed with traditional and chiropractic care.
What is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy, or CP, refers to developmental motor conditions that cause disability. CP is not contagious and it is not considered a disease. Although it is not genetic, most cases are caused around pregnancy or birth, so they are typically congenital. CP may be related to infection, radiation, or lack of oxygen during brain development, as well as premature birth and birth trauma. Damage can occur up to age 3. CP, caused by “a permanent, non-progressive defect” in the brain, affects 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 cerebral palsy. All cerebral palsy types have “abnormal muscle tone”, and problems with motor development and reflexes. Symptoms include spasms, spasticity, involuntary movement, and balance and gait problems, including “toe walking” and “scissor walking”. The degree of disorderfalls 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 at well. Over the course of development, symptoms can change or appear. It is generally when the baby becomes mobile that 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 involved with CP. Early intervention is necessary. Patients with cerebral palsy may also have different leg lengths and shorter stature, as CP affects skeletal bone development. Spasticity and gait problems affect the 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. 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. Because CP patients can have tight muscles, spasticity, and pain, some medications may be prescribed. To treat “generalized spasticity”, muscle relaxants (i.e. baclofen, diazepam) can be offered. Some of these medications have dependency risk and side effects, such as nausea and sleepiness. For “isolated spasticity”, Botox injections may be used. The side effects there 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. Muscle training and other exercises will also be prescribed.2
While there is no cure for cerebral palsy, there are other options for 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 showed “improvement in paraspinal muscle tone” from chiropractic care” for some children who had cerebral palsy from birth trauma. Another case study showed marked improvement in a child with “hypotonic cerebral palsy”. Chiropractic care cannot cure cerebral palsy, but it can help with some of the symptoms and problems, without the side effects and risks of drugs and surgery. Chiropractic care is gentle, and it can also improve symptoms such as seizures, spasms, and arm and leg problems.3