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Baclofen for Cerebral Palsy: Can It Boost Mobility?

baclofen for cerebral palsy spasticity

Baclofen is a muscle relaxant that can help individuals with cerebral palsy manage high muscle tone. However, its effects are temporary, so it’s essential to understand how to promote more long-term benefits.

This article will discuss how baclofen works and what individuals with cerebral palsy can do to extend its effects for more long-term spasticity relief.

How Baclofen for Cerebral Palsy Works

baclofen for cerebral palsy leg spasticity

Over 80% of individuals with cerebral palsy experience spasticity, which describes involuntary muscle contractions caused by damage to the nervous system. By using baclofen, individuals may experience temporary spasticity relief. This helps expand range of motion and reduce stiffness.

Let’s discuss how baclofen works.

Neurons are cells within the nervous system that allow information to be communicated throughout the body. They communicate with one another through electrical currents called action potentials. When a certain neuron is told to “fire”, an action potential is formed.

Baclofen affects the ability of action potentials to occur by hyperpolarizing the chemical balance in the area it is injected. This slows down the formation of action potentials, which prevents the neurons from constantly telling the muscles to contract. This helps keep the muscles relaxed and prevents spasticity.

Ways to Take Baclofen

Baclofen can be administered orally or through an intrathecal pump into the spinal canal. Depending on the location and severity of your motor impairments, one option may be more ideal than the other.

For example, individuals that only have mild motor impairments will likely benefit from oral medication, while individuals that are more severely affected will likely use intrathecal pumps, as this is a more targeted delivery method.

The effects of baclofen generally only last several hours, so those with more severe spasticity may also prefer getting an intrathecal pump implanted for continuous delivery.

Side Effects of Baclofen for CP

baclofen for cerebral palsy leg spasticity

Some adverse side effects of using baclofen for cerebral palsy include:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Weakness

Sudden discontinuation of baclofen use can cause withdrawal symptoms, so be sure to gradually wean off rather than quick cold turkey. Always consult with your doctor before changing the dosage of your medications.

How to Improve Mobility Long-Term

physical therapy to improve walking in cerebral palsy patients

While the brain damage that caused cerebral palsy will not worsen over time, spasticity can. Therefore, individuals with CP that do not properly manage their spasticity are at risk for more severe motor impairments or muscle contractures as they get older.

The best way to use baclofen to improve mobility is to take advantage of the temporarily-induced low muscle tone and pursue intensive physical therapy.

The brain has neuroplasticity, which makes it extremely adaptive. While the brain damage that caused CP cannot be reversed, functions affected by the damage can be rewired to healthy areas of the brain through massed practice.

Baclofen will relax spastic muscles so that individuals with cerebral palsy can practice moving with correct form. It won’t feel natural or comfortable at first, but the more you practice the movement, the more your brain will strengthen the neural pathways necessary to build new habits.

Even once the baclofen wears off, the new neural connections made will allow for some of your progress to carry over.

Should You Try Baclofen for Cerebral Palsy?

high muscle tone cerebral palsy

Baclofen is a muscle relaxant that can be very helpful for spasticity management.

However, its effects are temporary, so it’s important to understand that baclofen will not magically treat your spasticity.

Baclofen will help temporarily relieve high muscle tone so that you can focus on practicing movements with correct form.

The more you practice moving with correct form, the stronger the neural connections in the brain for that movement pattern will become.

That’s a wrap! Hopefully, this article helped you better understand why baclofen can help individuals with CP manage their spasticity.

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At Flint Rehab, we understand that doing physical therapy at home can become tedious and repetitive. But when repetition is critical to recovery, it’s important to stick with a repetitive regimen. But that doesn’t mean it has to be boring.

Flint Rehab is the leading manufacturer of motion-sensing, gamified rehabilitation devices. Our bestselling recovery tool, FitMi, transforms full-body rehab exercises into an interactive experience.

See what individuals with CP are saying about FitMi:

“The FitMi and MusicGlove have done wonders for my son with hemiparesis from cerebral palsy and stroke. It motivates him to do his exercises. It does not seem like therapy for him since it is fun. FitMi monitors his progress so it is a great reinforcement for him. Music is a motivator for him. He has been using it on his arm and we will try the leg exercises soon.”


While FitMi is a recovery tool for the full-body, our other device, MusicGlove, helps target the hand to improve fine motor skills and dexterity.

See what others have said about MusicGlove:

“My granddaughter has right-side hemiplegia from Cerebral Palsy / stroke at birth. She states that this is a great product for anyone who has issues with the use of their hand(s), and that is has helped her tremendously. She also finds the music quite catchy (surprisingly!). Our occupational therapist has been impressed as well. I can say that it has arguably been the best tool of all our therapy resources.”


Together, FitMi and MusicGlove make a powerful home therapy regimen for individuals with cerebral palsy. Best of all, you can save money when you bundle them together.

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