3 strange treatments for cerebral palsy… that work

Spinally injured person in a wheelchair with the horizon in the distance

Cerebral palsy is an extremely debilitating condition. Thought to affect between 2 to 2.5 births out of every 1000 in the UK, it is caused by permanent damage to the brain which results in physical impairments that last the whole of the child’s life – and some of its effects can be excruciatingly painful.

To help alleviate these symptoms, or in some cases, make improvements in function, there are numerous medicinal and surgical treatments available for people with cerebral palsy (covered in more detail in our Resource Centre).

However, there have also been reports of successes through alternative therapies, particularly when standard forms of treatment do not seem to be garnering positive results (though it must be stressed that this success is not guaranteed and nor is it universal).

Here we take a look at three of the more unusual treatments which have proven to have had beneficial results on some people living with cerebral palsy:

1. Rebound therapy

Rebound therapy can be quickly surmised by its alternative name: trampoline therapy.

Developed in the UK towards the tail end of the 1960s, rebound therapy is a means for physiotherapists to provide therapeutic exercise for people with cerebral palsy, with the added bonus that it provides recreational fulfilment through activities for people with limitations in their physical movement.

Not only does the bounce of the trampoline assist with improving muscle tone and function, the process itself also increases fitness and balance.

With improvements in cardio-respiratory function, there often follows more clarity in vocalisation and communication, and with better balance there may also be a greater sense of spatial awareness.

2. Hippotherapy

Despite its unusual and somewhat eye-catching name, hippotherapy is actually the technical terminology used for therapy involving horse riding, sometimes also referred to as ‘equine therapy’.

Like rebound therapy, this treatment was conceived during the 1960s and was initially practiced in several countries in western mainland Europe, but it is important to avoid confusing this with ‘therapeutic riding’ (the teaching of general riding and grooming skills).

The central idea of hippotherapy is that the movement of the horse encourages similar movements in the rider, particularly through the repetitious rhythm of its stride in order to benefit the child’s gait, strength, posture and balance.

In effect, the benefits are threefold as it improves both the patient’s cognitive and physical function by combining occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech therapy into one enjoyable yet strenuous past time.

3. Umbilical cord blood

As unpleasant as being treated with your own ‘umbilical cord blood’ may sound, for people with neurological injuries and illnesses, such an experience offers great hope.

The reason for this being that it contains those organisms that are as likely to create controversy in some quarters of society as they are to instil optimism in others: stem cells.

Just one week ago on 10th December 2013, it was reported by a leading stem cell storage company in the Netherlands that a four year old child in Spain received a transplant of blood from her own umbilical cord as part of the trial and investigative phase of stem cell research on cerebral palsy.

Whilst it is too early to provide the results and draw conclusions from that particular procedure, there has been a precedent in Germany, which was announced earlier in 2013.

A boy of 2 was left with cerebral palsy after a cardiac arrest caused brain damage in 2008, so underwent intravenous umbilical cord stem cell treatment.

Within months, he had regained the ability to move and talk, emphasising how quickly the treatment can work, and in just over three years he was able to eat independently and walk with assistance.

From what was considered to be a vegetative state to considerably improved function within just three years, it certainly instils hope for the futures of other people living with CP.

Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130523101822.htm