No products in the cart.

Baclofen for Cerebral Palsy: Can It Boost Mobility?

baclofen for cerebral palsy spasticity

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

baclofen for cerebral palsy leg spasticity

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

baclofen for cerebral palsy leg spasticity

©iStock.com/KatarzynaBialasiewicz

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.

How to Improve Mobility Long-Term

physical therapy to improve walking in cerebral palsy patients

©iStock.com/olesiabilkei

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?

high muscle tone cerebral palsy

©iStock.com/SbytovaMN

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.

Featured image: ©iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

Keep It Going: See Fun Ways to Recover from Cerebral Palsy

Finally! There’s a recovery device for CP that’s actually fun to use. See how Flint Rehab’s tools are helping with CP recovery:

“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. It 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.”

FitMi works by motivating high repetition of therapeutic exercises while playing an engaging game. This gamification has been particularly great for motivating individuals with cerebral palsy to recover.

To see how FitMi works, click here »