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What are the innovative therapies being developed to help those with cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a lifelong condition defined as an impaired muscle coordination and/or other disabilities. A cause of cerebral palsy is damage to the brain before or at birth. 

I've supported a number of families who, as a result of failings in maternity care, have children diagnosed with the condition. Cerebral palsy impacts all aspects of a child and their family's life.

The four main types of cerebral palsy

There are four main types of cerebral palsy: 

  • Spastic cerebral palsy causes muscles to appear stiff and tight.
  • Dyskinetic cerebral palsy is characterised by involuntary movements.
  • Ataxic cerebral palsy is characterised by shaky movements and affects balance and sense of positions in space. 
  • Mixed type is where someone may exhibit multiple motor coordination difficulties. 

The traditional therapies

The severity of the cerebral palsy may mean some children are reliant on wheelchairs or walkers to support their movement. 

When a child is diagnosed with cerebral palsy, early and ongoing therapies are crucial to support their development and ensure their full potential of movement and independence is achieved. 

The standard therapies recommended are: physiotherapy, speech and language therapy and occupational therapy. 

Therapies are key to enabling movement and development of the muscles that are impacted. For example children with spastic cerebral palsy with stiff and tight muscles, if the muscles aren't used they can become contracted further limiting mobility and causing pain.

The innovative therapies and the impact they have

In addition to the usual therapies which have been supporting people with cerebral palsy for many years, in recent years new innovative therapies have been becoming increasing common due to the benefits to people with cerebral palsy. 

A lot of the new therapies focus on neuroplasticity - the ability of the nervous system to change its activity in response to stimuli to develop.

My client, Natasha Chapman, spoke at Irwin Mitchell’s latest webinar about her research and funding of innovative therapies and the benefit it has had on her daughter. 

Natasha spoke about the success she has with a number of innovative therapies, such as:

  • Neuromodulation which is spinal stimulation.
  • Vital Stim is therapy is a specialised form of neuromuscular electrical stimulation of the muscles in the throat to stimulate swallowing.
  • Dynamic Movement Intervention (DMI) uses a range of motions and positions to stimulate neuroplasticity allowing the development of new neuronal connections (brain to body connections) to provoke a specific active motor response e.g.  turning of the head.
  • Vojta is the therapeutic use of reflex locomotion enables elementary patterns of movement in patients with impaired central nervous systems. 
  • Hydrotherapy

As a medical negligence solicitor, I support families and people with cerebral palsy caused as a result of care failings to obtain funding and access to the therapies they need to support their development and life. 

I see first-hand the benefit access to therapies has on families. Therefore, these new therapies seem to be a positive development in helping families and people with cerebral palsy reach their full potential and in some cases live more independently.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting families affected by cerebral palsy at our dedicated cerebral palsy claims section.