Did you know that there’s a link between cerebral palsy and fatigue?
Fatigue can be debilitating and drastically affect your ability to perform daily tasks, go to work, or even socialize.
This article will explain why people with cerebral palsy experience fatigue and the best ways to stabilize energy levels so you can do what you need to do and enjoy your day.
Is Cerebral Palsy Linked to Increased Fatigue?
Individuals with cerebral palsy have higher levels of fatigue than the general population because they have to exert more energy to perform the same tasks.
Their motor impairments make it challenging to control their movements, which requires more energy.
Even at rest, the bodies of people with cerebral palsy must work harder to function normally.
Children with severe spasticity can have disproportionate growth and poor posture due to uneven muscle pull. This can strain organs and require more energy to carry out regular bodily processes.
Causes of Fatigue in Cerebral Palsy Patients
Aside from motor impairment, there are many factors that can 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 get frustrated due to communication difficulties. This increases their likelihood of emotional outbursts, which can expend quite a bit of energy.
- Sleep deprivation. Many conditions associated with cerebral palsy like pain, epilepsy, GERD, and breathing problems can 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 have low energy levels.
- Muscle weakness due to limited physical activity. People with cerebral palsy that 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 even the simplest movements can become challenging.
- Medications. Fatigue is a common side effect of most medications.
- Chronic pain. Pain can cause sleeping difficulties, frustration, and prevent physical activity.
Managing Fatigue with Cerebral Palsy
Fatigue can be mentally and physically draining, but it can be managed.
Because so many things can cause fatigue, effective management will vary case-by-case.
Let’s go over some of the best ways to manage fatigue.
Prioritizing and Planning
One of the most important things to practice is conserving energy for the whole day.
Try to pace yourself and be realistic about how much you’re able to do in one day.
Challenge yourself, but don’t overexert yourself.
Planning is key. We suggest writing everything down in order of importance and challenging yourself to accomplish all these tasks by the end of the day.
Some days will be better than others, so don’t be too hard on yourself and be flexible.
Next, we’ll go over some things you can do to improve energy levels.
It might sound counterintuitive, but exercising will give you more energy.
Regularly getting your heart pumping can help improve circulation and strengthen muscles so that you get accustomed to moving and don’t tire out so easily.
The first few attempts at exercise are always the most challenging. Once your body gets adjusted to being active, it will become less tiring and daunting.
Getting a good night’s rest is essential for recharging energy levels and productivity.
If you’re experiencing difficulty sleeping, try to identify what’s causing it. Is it pain? Anxiety? Respiratory complications? More often than not, it’s a combination of complications.
Once you’ve targeted them, learn how to manage them. You might need the help of medications, massage therapy, or even surgery to help you get through the night.
Getting enough, good quality sleep will keep your circadian rhythm (internal 24-hour clock) in proper alignment and ensure that you don’t experience drastic dips in energy throughout the day.
Look for patterns in your energy levels and schedule a regular nap if you need to.
If you’re constantly tired, a mid-day nap might just be exactly what you need to recharge.
Certain foods can make you feel slow and groggy.
It’s important to consume a healthy, nutrient-dense diet to prevent fatigue throughout the day.
Similarly, eating too much can cause you to feel drowsy and lethargic.
Consider eating smaller and more frequent meals throughout the day to prevent spikes in blood sugar.
Additionally, make sure to drink a lot of water throughout the day to prevent dehydration.
Even just a little bit of dehydration can negatively affect physical and cognitive performance.
Adaptive tools are designed to help you become more independent.
Cerebral palsy can make many tasks more difficult and using adaptive tools like reachers and universal cuffs can 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 can develop low oxygen levels which cause fatigue.
Practicing deep breathing exercises will help you strengthen your respiratory muscles and increase lung volume for deeper, more effective breaths.
Cerebral Palsy and Fatigue: Summary
People with cerebral palsy use more energy because of 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 can be both mentally and physically exhausting trying to manage cerebral palsy, but there are actions you can take to help stabilize your energy levels throughout the day like eating healthy, exercising, and getting enough sleep.
Hopefully, this article helped you better understand how cerebral palsy affects fatigue and what you can do to combat it. Good luck!