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Doctors prescribe several medications to reduce cerebral palsy symptoms. They use medications to control seizures or muscle spasms, for pain relief, to aid digestion, and more. Medicines can improve the symptoms of cerebral palsy, as well as associated conditions, but they also come with the risk of side effects.
Anticonvulsants are prescribed for patients with cerebral palsy who experience seizures. The role of anticonvulsants is to reduce brain stimulation, which then helps to control the severity and number of seizures patients experience.
Since there are varying types of seizures, there are also different types of anticonvulsant medications, and physicians will prescribe the one matching the patient’s symptoms.
Some of the most common types prescribed include:
Each medication will affect each patient differently and come with its own side effects. To learn more about anticonvulsants, refer to our article, Cerebral Palsy and Seizure Medications.
As the name implies, muscle relaxers are prescribed to children (and adults) with cerebral palsy to help control, manage, and reduce stiff muscles and muscle spasms. Muscle relaxants are administered orally in tablet form, via injections, or through a pump implanted into the child’s abdomen.
The type of muscle relaxer your child needs (if any) will depend on the medical history and individual health circumstances. The most common types of muscle relaxers prescribed to children with cerebral palsy include:
Muscle relaxers also come with unique side effects. Be sure to discuss this issue with your physician beforehand. For further information, refer to our article, Cerebral Palsy and Muscle Relaxers.
Anticholinergic medications are prescribed to patients with cerebral palsy for numerous issues, such as uncontrollable limb and facial movements, muscle spasms, tremors, and excessive drooling.
Anticholinergics work by blocking the area of the brain that causes muscle movement, which helps control many of the most common symptoms that people with cerebral palsy face. Some children find that small doses of anticholinergic medications are beneficial, whereas other children will require higher dosages.
The most common types of anticholinergic medications prescribed to children with cerebral palsy include:
- Benztropine mesylate
- Trihexyphenidyl hydrochloride
Antidepressant medications help improve moods and enhance well-being. These types of drugs aren’t for everyone and are usually reserved for people with cerebral palsy experiencing depression, anxiety, and other mental and emotional problems that can come from living with a debilitating disorder. Antidepressants are generally used in combination with behavioral therapy.
The types of antidepressants described can vary greatly, but the following are some of the most common:
Antidepressants come with various side effects, but reactions may differ from patient to patient.
Pain Control Medication
Different types of pain medication are used frequently to help control pain by reducing inflammation. Some children with cerebral palsy will experience chronic, long-term pain, and for this, a doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medicine.
Common types of anti-inflammatories prescribed to cerebral palsy patients include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Pain medications come with side effects, so it’s important to discuss this with your child’s doctor beforehand.
Complementary and Alternative Medication
Some parents would rather have their children take natural medications instead of traditional drugs. Others may try alternatives when the first line of prescribed medications fails to relieve symptoms. Others use complementary and alternative options in combination with conventional medicines.
Complementary and alternative medications generally include:
- Biologically-based supplements
- Homeopathic medicines
- Herbal medicines
Medical marijuana is considered an alternative medication, but with the increase of research and information on its use in treating pain, it may become a more common treatment for people with cerebral palsy. Some states are already allowing it to be prescribed for pain relief and seizure control.
For more information about medical marijuana, including legalities, dosage, side effects, and more, refer to our article, Cerebral Palsy and Medical Marijuana.
Talk to your child’s doctors about medications that could help them. It’s important to weigh the potential benefits with the risk of side effects.
- Cerebral Palsy Medication: Neuromuscular Blockers, Botulinum Toxins, Muscle relaxants, Benzodiazepines, Anticholinergic Agents, Dopamine Prodrugs, Anticonvulsant Agents, Alpha2 Adrenergic Agonist Agents. (2019, November 10). Diseases & Conditions - Medscape Reference.
Retrieved from: https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1179555-medication
- Gál, K. (n.d.). Anticholinergic drugs: Uses and side effects. Health News - Medical News Today.
Retrieved from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323514
- Combined Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and Pharmacotherapy for Adolescent Depression: Does it Improve Outcomes Compared with Monotherapy? (n.d.). PubMed Central (PMC).
Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2671638/
- MARIJUANA AND PAIN - Marijuana as Medicine? - NCBI Bookshelf. (n.d.). National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK224384/