Medications are commonly prescribed to people with cerebral palsy to help battle pain associated with the disorder. Yet, there are a number of alternative options available to people of all ages, to help relieve pain naturally, especially ongoing chronic pain, which typically can’t be “fixed,” at least in the long run, with an aspirin or other standard pain relievers.
Ice and Heat Therapy
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), applying heat and ice (one at a time) to muscles helps to inhibit spastic movement, which in turn, can reduce painful spasms. For localized pain, consider using a heating pad, followed by ice on the area. Keep in mind that heat and ice therapy creates short-term relief. Using this technique several times a day, combined with other pain-relieving techniques, provides the best results.
Additionally, a study published in Science Direct, regarding the use of ice therapy prior to physical therapy, showed significant improvement in spasticity and hand function. According to the study, children who were given “cold therapy” on their elbow and wrist flexors just before they went to therapy had a higher rate of lower spastic movements and a higher rate of hand function compared to the children who didn’t receive the cold therapy.
When combined with physical and/or occupational therapy, ice therapy helped children with cerebral palsy to also drastically improve their range of motion (ROM). Thirty children with spastic cerebral palsy participated in the study; 12 children had quadriplegia and the remaining 18 had diplegia. The children’s ages raged from 4-6 years of age.
Epsom Salts and Salt Bath
According to Dr. Allan Greene, a pediatrician and pediatric adviser for Plum Organics, Epsom salt not only helps to reduce inflammation and reduce stress, but it can also play a role in helping reduce the chances of preterm infants developing cerebral palsy in the first place. Other studies suggest that Epsom salt helps prevent seizures, a common associated disorder of cerebral palsy.
Epsom salt is named after a saline spring at Epsom in Surrey, England, yet it isn’t actually a salt. It’s a mix of naturally-occurring magnesium and sulfate. Both magnesium and sulfate are absorbed into the skin quite easily, making Epsom salt baths a primary choice to reap the numerous health benefits the minerals offer. Other benefits of Epsom salt include:
- Easing pain of athlete’s foot and gout
- Treatment for minor cuts and scrapes
- Dead skin exfoliation
- Help with blackhead removal
- Constipation relief (constipation is a common problem for many children with cerebral palsy)
- Helps prevent blood clots
Be certain to talk with your child’s pediatrician before using Epsom salt, to rule out any other medical conditions that could exacerbate.
Echinacea, an herb found in areas east of the Rocky Mountains, has been used for decades to battle the common cold, for anxiety, the flu and more. Some studies suggest that the herb promotes healthy blood circulation, reduces pain, and soothes spastic muscles.
Other positive benefits of the herb include:
- Eye inflammation relief
- Wound healing
- Ear infections relief
- Stomach and intestine inflammation relief
Echinacea can be taken in liquid extract form, tea form, tincture, capsules, and tablets. Consult a physician for information about dosage amounts.
Physical therapy is one of the first choices of treatments for many doctors in the nation that treat children with cerebral palsy. It’s also a treatment option that should be started as soon as possible for the most optimal results.
Physical therapists plan long-term goals for patients and teach them skills that will help them relieve pain for the rest of their lives. Physical therapy exercises and activities have been shown to help people with cerebral palsy to:
- Reduce physical limitations
- Gain strength and better balance
- Encourage sensory stimulation
- Increase gait
- Increase posture and flexibility
- Develop less-functioning muscles
- Improve posture
- Improve flexibility
- Minimize pain and discomfort
- Relieve tight muscles
- Reduce joint inflammation
Keep in mind that the above information should never be used in replacement of a doctor. Always consult with your physician (if you have cerebral palsy) or your child’s physician before starting any type of treatment plan.