Did you know that there’s a link between cerebral palsy and fatigue?
Fatigue may be debilitating and drastically affects your ability to carry out daily tasks, perform at work, or socialize.
This article will explain why people with cerebral palsy experience fatigue and the most effective way to stabilize energy levels in order to accomplish daily tasks as well as enjoy leisure activities.
Is Cerebral Palsy Linked to Increased Fatigue?
Individuals with cerebral palsy have higher levels of fatigue because they have to exert more energy to perform tasks.
Their motor impairments make it challenging to control their movements, which requires more energy.
Even at rest, people with cerebral palsy must work harder to function normally.
Children with severe spasticity may have disproportionate growth and poor posture due to uneven muscle tone. This can strain organs and requires more energy to perform regular bodily processes.
Causes of Fatigue in Cerebral Palsy Patients
Aside from motor impairment, there are other factors that contribute to fatigue in people with cerebral palsy.
Causes of cerebral palsy-related fatigue include:
- Breathing difficulties. Cerebral palsy patients may develop respiratory complications due to oral motor impairment.
- Psychological duress. People with cerebral palsy often become frustrated due to communication difficulties. This may increase emotional outbursts, which can expend additional energy.
- Sleep deprivation. Many conditions associated with cerebral palsy such as pain, epilepsy, GERD, and breathing problems may disrupt sleep. Sleep is essential for recharging energy levels and preventing fatigue.
- Malnutrition from feeding difficulties. Oral motor impairments can make it difficult for children with cerebral palsy to chew and swallow. As a result, many children with CP tend to not eat enough and therefore experience low energy levels.
- Muscle weakness due to limited physical activity. People with cerebral palsy who are unable to walk or are confined to their wheelchairs often don’t get enough physical activity. Therefore, their muscles tend to atrophy from disuse and the simplest movements become challenging.
- Medications. Fatigue is a common side effect of most medications.
- Chronic pain. Pain may cause sleeping difficulties, frustration, and prevent physical activity.
Managing Fatigue with Cerebral Palsy
Fatigue may be mentally and physically draining, but it can also be managed.
Because so many things cause fatigue, effective management will vary case-by-case.
Below are effective ways to manage fatigue.
Prioritizing and Planning
One of the most important things to practice is conserving energy for the whole day.
Pacing your activities with rest periods allows you to complete daily tasks and be more productive throughout the day. Challenge yourself, but don’t overexert yourself.
Planning is key. We suggest making a list of tasks and activities in order of importance and challenging yourself to accomplish these tasks by the end of the day.
Some days will be more productive than others, so allow yourself to be flexible.
Next, we’ll provide suggestions for improving energy levels.
It might sound counterintuitive, but exercising creates more energy.
Increasing your heart rate improves circulation and strengthens muscles, as well as decreases fatigue.
Initially, exercise is challenging, but when your body adjusts to being active, it will become less tiring
Getting a good night’s rest is essential for recharging energy levels and productivity.
If you’re experiencing difficulty sleeping, it’s important to identify what’s causing it. Is it pain? Anxiety? Respiratory complications? Often, it’s a combination of symptoms.
Getting good quality sleep maintains your circadian rhythm (internal 24-hour clock) and ensures that you don’t experience fluctuations in energy throughout the day.
Recognize patterns in your energy levels and allow yourself a rest period during the day. However, it’s also important to keep in mind that prolonged naps may interrupt deep sleep at night.
If you’re consistently tired, a mid-day nap might be what you need to recharge.
Certain foods may deplete your energy levels.
It’s important to consume a healthy, nutrient-dense diet to prevent fatigue throughout the day.
Similarly, eating too much may cause you to feel drowsy and lethargic.
Consider eating smaller and more frequent meals throughout the day to prevent spikes in blood sugar.
Additionally, drink water throughout the day to prevent dehydration.
Even minimal dehydration may negatively affect physical and cognitive performance.
Adaptive tools are designed to help you become more independent.
Cerebral palsy makes many tasks more difficult and using adaptive tools like reachers and universal cuffs may help individuals with CP conserve energy.
Deep Breathing Exercises
We inhale oxygen to fuel cellular activity. People with cerebral palsy that have difficulties controlling their breathing may develop low oxygen levels which causes fatigue.
Practicing deep breathing exercises strengthens respiratory muscles and increases lung volume for deeper, more effective breaths.
Cerebral Palsy and Fatigue: Summary
People with cerebral palsy use more energy due to their motor impairments.
Whether it’s spasticity, uncontrollable movements, poor posture, or lack of coordination, cerebral palsy can make it difficult to perform simple tasks.
It may be mentally and physically exhausting to manage cerebral palsy, but there are actions to stabilize your energy levels throughout the day such as eating healthy, exercising, and getting enough sleep.
Hopefully, this article helped you understand how cerebral palsy affects fatigue and what you can do to combat it. Good luck!