Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Chiropractic Care Improves QOL for Cerebral Palsy Patients

Scant information exists in the medical literature on chiropractic and cerebral
palsy (CP), but those Doctors of Chiropractic (DCs) who work with CP patients say that most respond favorably to chiropractic treatment. CP patients have motor disorders that are unique to each individual, the result of damage to sensory-motor areas of the cerebral cortex that occurred during fetal development or childbirth and neonatal development. Any CP treatment must be individualized and specific to each person’s needs, although no treatment offers a cure.

Because the presentation of CP varies greatly from patient to patient, so does each patient's response to care. Some see improved comfort, some feel increased flexibility and motor control, and others notice improved bowel function or sleep. About three-quarters of all CP patients suffer from spastic CP and usually benefit from chiropractic treatment. Treatment is directed toward changing muscle tone, coordination, and motor development.

All CP patients have a pathology in their brains that is fixed and non-progressive. CP patients can expect a varied combination of applications including spinal and joint manipulations or adjustments, as well as specific exercises and a variety of environmental stimuli such as light, sound, and other brain-based applications. Regular adjustments help normalize motion in the spinal and extremity joints.

Pain is one of the most troubling aspects of CP—a result of the constant joint irritation that causes inflammation. Adjusting the joint reduces the mechanoreceptor irritation and helps reduce both the degree of spasm and the inflammation. The decreased muscle tension and lessened inflammation means the patient feels more relaxed and has less pain.

Unfortunately because the original damage to the central nervous system causes constant muscle spasm in those with spastic CP, although chiropractic care can bring great relief to these patients, improvement is often temporary. Without a cure available, this condition continues to present the patient with biomechanical and physiological challenges.

Treatment should be realistic and designed to help CP patients experience a higher quality of life. Initiating treatment as early as possible is critical for promoting the development of as many motor skills as possible, as well as helping patients learn the skills they need to compensate for lost function.

Because chiropractic helps increase the comfort level of many patients with CP, a major side benefit is that they can greatly reduce or eliminate their medications. These pain medications often come with serious side effects, especially for chronic users, and patients often develop a tolerance over time to them, which causes them to require ever increasing doses to experience the same level of pain relief. Therefore, including chiropractic care early as part of the treatment protocol for CP patients can potentially reduce their lifetime intake of pain medications and increase their overall quality of life.

Written by Mark Crawford, contributing writer, and reproduced from the Journal of the American Chiropractic Association. Edited by Optimal Family Chiropractic, LLC.

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