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Presently, there is no cure for cerebral palsy and current treatment options can only reduce the disabilities associated with cerebral palsy. The therapy regimen is tailored to meet the specific needs of an individual and it differs from one individual to other (6).
A multidisciplinary team of health care professionals develops a treatment plan in close coordination with patients, families, teachers and caregivers. A pediatrician, pediatric neurologist, or pediatric physical therapist provides primary care to children suffering from cerebral palsy whereas a family doctor, neurologist or physiatrist provides primary care to adults suffering from cerebral palsy.
In this therapy, tailor made exercises and activities are planned to work towards two important goals - preventing weakening or deterioration of the muscles (disuse atrophy) and maintaining flexibility of muscles (contracture).
Children and adolescents suffering from mild cerebral palsy undergo resistive exercise programs (strength training) to optimize muscle performance. Physical therapy with special braces (orthotic devices) helps prevent contracture by stretching spastic muscles (1).
Speech and Language Therapy:
Speech and language therapists diagnose and treat communication disorders related to cerebral palsy with the help of a program of exercises to overcome specific communication problems.
The therapist can help children master social skills involved in communicating such as keeping their head up, maintaining eye contact and repeating themselves when the other person is unable to understand (1).
Alcohol washes or alcohol injections into muscles are used to reduce spasticity but with certain adverse effects such as significant risk of pain or numbness.
Overactive muscles in children suffering from spastic movement disorders due cerebral palsy are treated by injecting locally Botulinum toxin (BT-A) leading to relaxation of contracted muscles.
In Intrathecal baclofen therapy, an implantable pump is used to deliver baclofen, a muscle relaxant into the fluid surrounding spinal cord. Baclofen reduces the excitability of nerve cells in the spinal cord, which in turn reduces the muscle spasticity throughout the body. This therapy is recommended for individuals suffering from chronic, severe stiffness or uncontrolled muscle movement throughout the body (1).
Dopaminergic drugs are widely used to increase the dopamine level in the brain leading to a reduction in rigidity and abnormal movements of muscles. Levodopa/Carbidopa (Sinemet) and Trihexyphenidyl (Artane) are some of the examples of dopaminergic drugs (6).
The exact causes of cerebral palsy are not known and it cannot be prevented. However, some of the important causes such as premature birth, low birth weight, infections and head injuries can be prevented in many cases.
Article by Kona Vishnu, MS
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