How to Massage Kids with Cerebral Palsy

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Published: 17th February 2010
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Copyright (c) 2010 Liddle Kidz Foundation Infant and Children's Pediatric Massage

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a term that refers to many possible injuries to the brain usually occurring during fetal development; before, during, or shortly after birth; during infancy; or early childhood. CP is not a disease, not progressive, nor communicable. The United Cerebral Palsy Research and Educational Foundation estimates between 1 ½ - 2 million children and adults have cerebral palsy in the United States. 10,000 babies and infants are diagnosed with CP annually. 1,200 - 1,500 preschool age children are also recognized to have cerebral palsy each year.

People with cerebral palsy usually receive combinations of therapies to help manage their condition. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, massage therapy, and speech therapy are helpful in managing cerebral palsy.

Without question massage therapy can have a valuable role in improving the quality of life of a child with CP. Research performed by the Touch Research Institute has indicated children affected by cerebral palsy receiving massage therapy showed fewer physical symptoms including reduced spasticity, less rigid muscle tone overall and in the arms and improved fine and gross motor functioning. In addition, the massage group had improved cognition, social and dressing scores on the Developmental Profile and they showed more positive facial expressions and less limb activity during face-to-face play interactions.

In a study published in Nursing Times. (Massage for Children with Cerebral Palsy.) Researchers noted an increase in circulation in paralyzed limbs, with a change in color and temperature. Massage may also be helpful in decreasing tone in spastic muscles, relieving tension and spasms, and improving blood circulation and digestion.

Because CP is the result of brain injury, it is important to also consider gentle nurturing touch which can stimulate the cranial areas helping the muscles to release. Passive range of motion movements can assist in maintaining and increasing flexibility, provide movement in the joints and prevent contractures of the muscles.

Pediatric Massage for cerebral palsy requires specific skills to adapt massage and nurturing touch techniques suited for the child's specific cerebral palsy condition(s), treatment and treatment plan.

Healthcare professionals including massage therapists who wish to provide massage for pediatric patients with cerebral palsy should consider specific specialized training in this area. A comprehensive touch therapy course for healthcare professionals and massage therapists should provide educational and professional training to those who wish to enhance their skills. Through an advanced pediatric massage training, participants should learn massage for pediatric clients with cerebral palsy, massage techniques,nurturing touch techniques, and information bout the most common types of childhood cerebral palsy including spastic, athetoid, ataxic, and mixed CP.

Massage therapy may not ultimately cure cerebral palsy, but this nurturing touch may provide some of the most beneficial and therapeutic touch in the child's treatment plan.


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