Monday, March 06, 2006

Cerebral Palsy and Massage

I think it is interesting that so many people are searching for information regarding cerebral palsy and massage. I am a huge proponent of natural therapy and remedies for treating illnesses and diseases, so it makes sense to me that alternative therapies could help with cerebral palsy, especially such methods as massage therapy, reiki, and cranial sacral.

D has received cranial sacral, but probably not at the amount that would prove truly beneficial. Besides, she is a wiggly, rolly 17 month old which is not conducive with cranial sacral.

So, as far as massage therapy has gone, D has not received any, although she did go see a chiropractor once.

I found the following article: by Ruth Werner, LMT, NCTMB

I'm going to post a section of the article that I thought was most interesting and hopefully nobody at Massage Today will take offense.

The damage for a person who has CP does not begin in the muscle and connective tissues. Although this is where we feel the tightening of the connective tissue wrappings around muscles, the contractures themselves are simply a symptom-a complication of a problem deep in the brain. Therefore, if all we try to do is lengthen the muscles and stretch the fascia, we will run smack into a brick wall: either no progress will happed at all, or symptoms may even be temporarily exacerbated. Most people with CP get best results if bodywork focuses on indirectly affecting muscle tone through craniosacral work, gentle rocking, slow range of motion exercises, and manipulation of the arms and legs that engages the client in ways he or she doesn't automatically resist-this often means going with the direction of muscle shortening in order to disengage the reflex. Ultimately, the therapist will have to experiment with lots of different approaches, often accompanied by extremely supportive bolstering, in order to find what techniques allow their clients to relax and enjoy their massage.

The benefits of massage to CP patients are undeniable. Parents write of their satisfaction when their child is able to sleep through the night, when postural distortions unbind, when breathing eases, when faces light up with joy because the massage therapist has arrived for a session. Imagine a child who is the object of vast numbers of painful, intrusive, unpleasant, dehumanizing medical procedures (regardless of the supportive intentions behind them). This child is handled rather than touched. Then his massage therapist arrives and arranges him carefully among pillows and bolsters on the table. She cradles his occiput and straightens his neck so he can breathe more easily. She rocks his arms and legs until their tension eases. She plays with his fingers until he realizes he can move them in lots of directions. Nothing she does hurts. What a gift, what a privilege to be invited into such a relationship!

If physical therapy is used to stretch and strengthen skeletal muscles, massage will also be a safe choice. The only caution is that people with very severe CP may not be able to communicate their wants or concerns clearly. If a massage therapist works with a client who cannot speak, other modes of communication, including nonverbal signals, become especially important. It is the responsibility of the massage therapist to make sure that his or her work is welcome and freely accepted at all times.

Our culture harbors a fear of people who look, or sound, or act differently from ourselves. Seeing or being with someone with CP can raise all kinds of fears or judgments that we never realized were there. Maybe this person can't speak, or drools, or walks funny, or doesn't walk at all. Speaking for myself, I will share that it's especially hard for me to deal with disabilities when they occur in children. And yet, here is a population that so needs the work we do! As long as basic common-sense precautions are respected (don't overwork numb areas, be sensitive to nonverbal communications, if anything you do makes symptoms worse then stop and try something else) massage can be a central coping mechanism for a child or adult with CP.

1 comment:

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