Can using baclofen for cerebral palsy help improve mobility?
In this article, we’ll go over exactly what baclofen is and how it can be utilized for individuals with cerebral palsy.
Let’s get started!
Baclofen for Cerebral Palsy
Over 80% of individuals with cerebral palsy experience spasticity, which is when the muscles involuntarily contract.
Movement occurs through the contracting and relaxing of our muscles. Individuals with spasticity typically have very stiff movements because the muscles cannot voluntarily relax.
While damage to the brain that causes cerebral palsy will not worsen over time, spasticity can.
Therefore, individuals with CP that do not properly manage their spasticity may experience more severe motor impairments as they get older.
This is where baclofen comes in. It is a muscle relaxant that hyperpolarizes the chemical balance in the area it is injected. This slows down the formation of action particles, which helps keep the muscles relaxed and prevent spasticity.
While baclofen can effectively reduce muscle tone in individuals with spasticity, its effects are temporary.
Ways to Take Baclofen
Baclofen can be administered orally, through intrathecal pump, or injected. Depending on the location and severity of your motor impairments, some options may be more ideal than others.
For example, individuals that only have motor impairments in their legs will benefit from injections while individuals that are affected throughout their entire bodies will likely prefer pills or intrathecal pumps.
The effects of baclofen generally only last several hours, so those with more severe spasticity may prefer getting an intrathecal pump implanted for continuous delivery.
Side Effects of Baclofen for CP
Some adverse side effects of using baclofen for cerebral palsy include:
Sudden discontinuation of baclofen-use can cause withdrawal symptoms, so be sure to gradually wean off rather than quick cold turkey.
How to Improve Mobility Long-Term
While baclofen can effectively reduce spasticity, its effects are generally short-lived and will need to be taken regularly.
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.
Should You Try Baclofen for 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 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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