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Alternative Treatments for Cerebral Palsy

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Updated May 01, 2012

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Because standard care for cerebral palsy is sometimes ineffective, some patients turn to alternative therapies in treatment of this condition. The most frequent cause of childhood disability in the United States, cerebral palsy constitutes a group of disorders that affect the patient's ability to coordinate body movements. While no type of alternative therapy has been extensively studied for its effects on cerebral palsy, some research suggests that acupuncture holds promise in treatment of certain symptoms and complications.

Standard Treatments for Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy, which is caused by abnormalities or damage in parts of the brain that control movement, can't be cured. Although cerebral palsy appears in the first few years of life and permanently affects movement and coordination, the condition doesn't get worse over time.

Typically, standard therapy for cerebral palsy aims to improve the patient's function and capabilities. For instance, standard care may involve the use of medication to relax muscles and ease pain, or physical therapy to build strength, flexibility, mobility, and balance. Speech therapy and assistive devices (such as braces and rolling walkers) are also commonly used in standard therapy for cerebral palsy.

Alternative Treatments for Cerebral Palsy

Although few studies have tested the use of alternative therapy for cerebral palsy, there's some evidence that acupuncture may help treat the disorder. For instance, in a research review published in 2010, scientists sized up 35 randomized clinical trials (involving a total of 3,286 children with cerebral palsy) and concluded that acupuncture may benefit cerebral palsy patients. The review's findings indicate that acupuncture may help improve daily functioning, increase independence, and enhance verbal function in children with cerebral palsy.

Other studies show that acupuncture may improve speech and boost bone density in cerebral palsy patients. And in a 2009 study of 60 children with cerebral palsy, researchers found that participants who received an alternative therapy combining acupuncture with music therapy showed greater improvement in movement (compared to those who received acupuncture alone). Each group underwent 36 treatment sessions, which took place every two days (with three treatments weekly).

Should You Use Alternative Treatments for Cerebral Palsy?

If you're considering the use of any type of alternative therapy for treatment of your child's cerebral palsy, make sure to consult a physician before beginning treatment. Since comprehensive care can increase the patient's chances of overcoming development disabilities, it's important to work closely with your child's doctor in creating a sound treatment plan.

Sources:

Huang M, Fan HF, Lei SE. "Scalp-acupuncture plus body-acupuncture for treatment of spastic cerebral palsy and its effects on bone density and trace elements in the diseased children." Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2007 27(6):395-7.

MayoClinic.com. "Cerebral palsy". November 2008.

Wen YQ, Dong XL. "Advances of studies on acupuncture and moxibustion for treatment of language disorder in children with cerebral palsy." Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2009 29(9):772-4.

Yu HB, Liu YF, Wu LX. "Acupuncture combined with music therapy for treatment of 30 cases of cerebral palsy." J Tradit Chin Med. 2009 29(4):243-8.

Zhang Y, Liu J, Wang J, He Q. "Traditional Chinese Medicine for treatment of cerebral palsy in children: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials." J Altern Complement Med. 2010 16(4):375-95.

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