Five ways physiotherapy can make a difference to someone with cerebral palsy
Dr Heather Epps specialises in the treatment of babies, children and teenagers with a whole range of conditions from mild developmental delay to complex cases of brain injury. Around 75-80% of her patients are affected by cerebral palsy and supporting individuals affected by this condition is at the heart of what she does.
In March of this year I had a double lung transplant. Before that I had to do hours and hours of physiotherapy every day. It was not fun but it did make a difference to my lungs.
Having witnessed the benefits of physiotherapy myself, I asked Heather to tell us more about how physiotherapy can make a difference to people with cerebral palsy:
Dr Heather Epps, how does physiotherapy make a difference to babies, children and adults with cerebral palsy?
- Physiotherapy improves motor development
As babies, most of our motor development occurs within the first 18 months of life. We spiral-learn through repetitive movements. Physiotherapy teaches babies and their families to help them to move using developmental pathways.
- Physiotherapy aids postural alignment and prevents the development of contractures and deformities
Abnormal patterns of movement occur due to altered muscle tone and muscle imbalance. The muscles on one side of the joint become overstretched and those on the other side shorten. Physiotherapists use facilitated handling techniques and exercises to influence muscle tone and movement. They can also advise on splints and postural management equipment.
- Physiotherapy can ease stiffness and prevent or reduce pain
High muscle tone (spasticity), repetitive abnormal movement patterns, and postural malalignment can lead to pain and stiffness. Physiotherapists can teach stretching, movement and strengthening exercises which can be integrated into a person’s daily routine.
- Physiotherapy provides rehabilitation after surgery or botulinum toxin injections or when skills are being lost
Physiotherapy can help maintain skills for as long as possible, especially during adolescence when the muscle and bone do not always grow at the same rate. In adulthood it can be hard to keep mobile when it is effortful to move and tiredness kicks in. A physiotherapist can help in pacing activities and keeping people as mobile and independent as is feasible.
- Physiotherapy can help to educate everyone involved and promote a physically active lifestyle
A good physiotherapist will always empower a young person to take as much control over their life and physio as possible. Physiotherapy can be offered in different ways such as hydrotherapy, rebound (trampolining), hippotherapy (horse riding), and functional electrical stimulation to name but a few. A physiotherapist can help to find the best approach to suit the individual person.
I am really grateful to Dr Epps for her insights into the importance of physiotherapy for individuals with cerebral palsy.
As a lawyer working with families affected by cerebral palsy, we frequently call upon Dr Epps and experts in other fields of therapy and rehabilitation to review our client’s individual needs and to advise on the best possible treatment for them. This not only ensures that our clients will have access to optimal therapy but enables us to ensure that the compensation recovered will support our client’s needs for a whole life time.