Ask your Doctor about Alternative Treatments
As a parent caring for a child with CP you have become familiar with most, if not all, forms of treatment for CP. Treatment typically includes medication, physical therapy, Botox injections, and surgery. In addition to the typical treatments, massage therapy has also been proven to be beneficial.
Benefits of Massage Therapy
There are many benefits of massage therapy for children with cerebral palsy. Massage therapy is the manual manipulation of soft body tissues. These tissues include muscles, connective tissues, tendons, and ligaments.
Using Massage Therapy for Children with Cerebral Palsy may:
- Increase or reduce muscle tone (high tone or low tone depending on how you apply massage)
- Reduce spasticity
- Encourage muscle flexibility
- Encourage motor function
- Help loosen tight muscles which hold bones and joints in a particular position
- Increase range of motion
- Help to ease muscle tension and stiffness (lessening muscle spasms)
Studying Massage Therapy for Children with CP
The Touch Research Institute in Miami has studied the outcomes of massage therapy. Twenty young children with cerebral palsy were recruited from early intervention programs. These children received 30 minutes of massage weekly for 12 weeks.
The children receiving massage therapy showed fewer physical symptoms including:
- Reduced spasticity
- Less rigid muscle tone overall and in the arms
- Improved fine and gross motor functioning
In addition, the massage group had:
- Improved cognition
- Social and dressing scores on the Developmental Profile
- Showed more positive facial expressions
- Less limb activity during face-to-face play interactions
Using Massage Therapy for Treatment
Your child’s medical team and massage therapist will teach you when to administer massages and when not to.
Do not provide massage when the child has:
- Acute infection, staph infection, illness, or infectious disease
- Broken bones
- Recent immunization/vaccination
Before considering massage therapy, parents should discuss the benefits with their child’s medical provider. The massage therapist, physician and therapy team can collaborate to maximize the most positive outcome.