Affecting over 50,000 Canadians, Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a blanket term for a number of brain injuries which affect muscle coordination and body movement. The condition can occur in children as a result of problems during pregnancy, childbirth, or early infancy.
While cerebral palsy is incurable, individuals suffering from the disorder can still go on to live long, happy, and independent lives with the proper support. This can include a range of complimentary therapies to aid their development, including physical, occupational, and speech therapy. Massage therapy can also play a crucial role, helping patients to manage some of the physical symptoms of CP and reducing the discomfort the condition causes them in their daily lives.
Cerebral Palsy is usually the result of damage to the motor areas of the brain, which can produce a range of different symptoms and issues. Medical professionals usually categorize CP into four different types:
Because the symptoms cerebral palsy sufferers experience tends to vary greatly depending on the severity of their brain injuries and the location of the damage, students in massage courses can expect each CP patient to require radically different treatment plans. Some of the most common problems associated with CP include:
Massage can be extremely beneficial for patients with CP, helping to alleviate some of the physical symptoms of the disorder such as spasticity, hypertonicity and contractures, as well as improving motor functioning. As a relaxing, non-invasive treatment, massage can also be a great way of improving the mood and general well-being of CP patients, promoting better circulation, digestion, and more restful sleep.
Nonetheless, massage college graduates face a number of unique challenges when treating a patient with cerebral palsy. For instance, lengthening and stretching of muscles and connective tissue is not generally effective for CP sufferers, as the problem originates from brain injury rather than issues within the muscles themselves. Instead, RMTs will generally focus on light touch and passive range of motion techniques, which encourage blood flow and indirectly strengthen muscle tone in the affected areas.
Research has shown the benefits of massage therapy for patients with CP, particularly among younger children. For example, a controlled study conducted in 2005 by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami saw a group of twenty children with an average age of 32 months receive two thirty-minute sessions per week over a twelve week period.
The participants showed improvement in fine and gross motor functions, as well as reduced spasticity and muscle tone rigidity. The group also showed some improvement in their cognitive and social development, with researchers recording more positive facial expressions and less limb activity during play sessions.
Interesting in finding out more about the benefits of massage therapy?
Contact OVCMT to find out more the programs on offer at our massage school.