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Children and people of all ages with cerebral palsy are at a heightened risk of falling due to the symptoms that affect balance and coordination. You can take steps as a parent or caregiver to ensure your child has the best treatment plans and aids available to help reduce frequent falling.
Type of Cerebral Palsy And Walking Problems
People with cerebral palsy have varying degrees of mobility limitations. For instance, those with spastic cerebral palsy have jerking movements and an awkward gait while walking. In contrast, those with athetoid cerebral palsy (dyskinetic) will have involuntary movements while walking that can affect their balance.
People with ataxic cerebral palsy experience shaky movements while walking and have difficulties with balance, while those with mixed cerebral palsy will have a combination of the symptoms above.
Falling and Cerebral Palsy
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), adults with cerebral palsy tend to have more issues with falling than teens and children with the disorder. Mobility starts to decline drastically during middle and older adulthood.
With the decline of mobility comes a drastic increase in falling. However, people of all ages with cerebral palsy can fall due to imbalance issues and non-voluntary movements.
Falling may seem like an innocuous incident, especially for children prone to scrapes and accidents while playing or running around. However, a rough fall for children with cerebral palsy can lead to sprains, broken bones, and increased CP symptoms.
Therapy is one of the top ways to help children and adults with cerebral palsy reduce their chances of falling.
Physical therapy provides patients with exercises, stretching techniques, balance routines, and other regimes that promote strength, balance, coordination, increased muscle tone, and more. Most doctors recommend that all children with cerebral palsy should enroll in physical therapy sessions as soon as possible after diagnosis.
Although there were a few limitations, a study published by the Oxford Academic indicated that “the application of a functional physical therapy program has positive effects on both the child’s capability and the performance (independence) of daily functional motor skills.”
For more information, refer to our article, Cerebral Palsy Physical Therapy.
Aquatic therapy is a relatively new concept for helping children with cerebral palsy, but it’s proven beneficial for many. Aquatic therapy helps boost confidence and improves muscle tone, balance, circulation, and physical function, all of which help reduce falls and other accidents.
For more information, refer to our article, Cerebral Palsy Aquatic Therapy.
Mobility Aids greatly assist children from falling, especially those who have trouble walking independently. Mobility aids can range from anything to a walker, crutches, leg braces, and canes.
Orthotic devices that can help children with walking and reduce the chances of falling include:
- Foot or ankle-foot orthotics
- Spinal orthotics
- Knee orthotics
- Knee-ankle orthotics
Walkers also come in various kinds, including:
- Two-wheeled walkers
- Four-wheeled walkers
- Gait trainers
- Walkers with chest support
- Suspension Walkers
Canes can be adjusted to the child’s specific height and are used for walking support to help prevent falling accidents. The most common types of canes include:
- Folding canes with seats
When walking issues are severe, orthopedic surgery may be recommended. Orthopedic surgery provides a host of benefits that can all reduce falling accidents:
- Correction of spinal curvatures
- Reduced muscle stiffness and spasms
- Correction of joints and tendons
- Prevention of hip dislocation and more
Regardless of what type of assistance you decide on, be sure to speak with your child’s health care team beforehand. It’s always a good idea to get professional medical assessments on your child’s strengths and weaknesses. This will help you make a better decision about which aids and therapies will help the most.
- Morgan P and McGinley J. (2013). Performance of adults with cerebral palsy related to falls, balance and function: A preliminary report. - PubMed - NCBI. National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23477464
- Effects of a functional therapy program on motor abilities of children with cerebral palsy. (2001, September 1). OUP Academic.
Retrieved from: https://academic.oup.com/ptj/article/81/9/1534/2857660