Can cerebral palsy get worse over time?
This article will explain why cerebral palsy may appear to be worsening and how proper management can help improve motor function.
Let’s get started!
Can Cerebral Palsy Get Worse?
Cerebral palsy is a non-progressive condition, meaning that the brain damage that caused the CP will not get worse over time.
However, symptoms of cerebral palsy like poor posture, difficulties balancing, and high muscle tone can progress if not adequately managed.
Luckily, those same symptoms can also be significantly reduced.
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to adapt and rewire itself.
With enough repetitions, functions affected by cerebral palsy can be improved.
Through a process called circuit reorganization, the brain can create new neural pathways and reorganize functions affected by damage to the brain.
The more you practice using correct form, the stronger the neural pathways for that movement become, and the easier it becomes to replace the abnormal movement.
How Spasticity in CP Patients Can Get Worse Over Time
Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common type of cerebral palsy and comprises up to 80% of all CP cases.
It’s characterized by spasticity, which is when the muscles continuously contract.
This can limit range of motion in the joints and result in stiff movements.
Without proper management, spasticity can progress and take a toll on the body.
Fortunately, spasticity is treatable for many people with cerebral palsy.
In the next section, we’ll review the various ways spasticity can be managed.
Preventing Cerebral Palsy from Getting Worse Over Time
Early intervention is ideal for minimizing the effects of cerebral palsy because children’s brains can rewire themselves much easier than those of adults.
A child’s brain easily absorbs new information because it is young and still has lots to experience.
Although adult brains are also adaptable, they have had lots of time to ingrain irregular movement patterns into habits, so they will be more difficult to replace.
Management interventions for cerebral palsy include:
- Physical Therapy. Physical therapy will help people with cerebral palsy work on lengthening their muscles and increasing movement potential through exercise.
- Occupational Therapy. Occupational therapy will focus more on day-to-day living, improving fine motor skills, and using adaptive equipment.
- Muscle Relaxants. Muscle relaxants like Botox and baclofen are used to temporarily reduce spasticity enough so that individuals with CP can work on expanding their range of motion and improving their form.
- Orthotics. Orthotics like braces, splints, and casts can help enforce proper form. They help keep the body part correctly aligned and lightly stretch spastic muscles.
- Surgeries. Because of their invasive nature, surgeries are only performed in severe cases when spasticity is not responding to other treatments. A Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (surgery to cut nerve roots to relieve spasticity) and muscle-lengthening surgery are the most common spasticity-reducing surgeries.
Many people with cerebral palsy use a combination of these treatments to manage their symptoms, promote proper form, and activate neuroplasticity.
Can Cerebral Palsy Worsen? – Key Points
The brain damage that caused cerebral palsy will not worsen over time, but symptoms of CP (like spasticity) can.
Unlike brain damage, symptoms of cerebral palsy can be treated and many people with cerebral palsy experience improvements in their functional abilities through intensive management.
Hopefully, this article helped you better understand why your child’s cerebral palsy may seem to worsen over time and what you can do to not only reduce symptoms, but also possibly see improvements. Good luck!
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