In the United States, about 8,000 babies get diagnosed with cerebral palsy each year. This condition does not affect every child the same. In fact, some children have such a mild form that it might be hard to tell of the child is affected at all. Others, however, have a severe type of cerebral palsy that prevents them from walking and requires them to be wheelchair dependent. Some children with this condition are also prone to having high muscle tone, which causes a symptom called spasticity.
If your child has spasticity that is caused by cerebral palsy, here are three treatment options that are often recommended.
Certain Types of Medication
There are certain types of medication that can help to alleviate stiffness in the muscles that is caused by spasticity. One such medication is a muscle relaxant called baclofen. This medication can either be taken orally or administered directly to the spine via an intrathecal delivery system.
Another type of medication that gets prescribed is Botulinum toxin type A, which is usually simply referred to as Botox. This muscle-relaxing agent can help to decrease rigidity of the muscles and also prevent muscle spasms that are commonly associated with spasticity. While these medications can help the muscles to relax, some children might experience negative side effects including allergic reactions and drowsiness.
Sometimes referred to as aquatic therapy, hydrotherapy is done in a pool filled with warm water that helps the muscles to relax. When the muscles are more relaxed, it allows a hydrotherapist to do certain stretches that can increase a child's range of motion.
Doing these stretches during hydrotherapy will help to alleviate the occurrence of muscle spasms, which can reduce the pain caused by spasticity. Since the buoyancy of the water helps children with mobility issues move around more easily, hydrotherapy also provides them with a good form of exercise.
If your child's spasticity is causing severe pain, you may be referred to an orthopaedic surgeon. If surgery is deemed necessary, the surgeon will cut part of the muscle in order to relieve tension and to decrease stiffness in the joints. While orthopedic surgery may only offer a temporary solution, it can be helpful with the following muscles that are commonly affected by spasticity:
- Hip adductors
- Achilles tendon
Repeat surgeries may be necessary as the child grows. While this type of treatment may not give children the ability to walk, it can offer pain management and decreased spasticity.