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Treating Cerebral Palsy With Massage Therapy - Maureen Abson



Cerebral Palsy is a condition that affects muscle control and movement. 

The word cerebral means relating to the brain, and palsy refers to a complete or partial loss of the ability to move a body part.  So cerebral palsy means loss of ability to move a part of the body because of a problem with the brain.  It is usually caused by an injury to the brain before, during or (more rarely) after birth.  The main causes of cerebral palsy include lack of oxygen to the brain, an infection early on in pregnancy, abnormal brain development, and, very rarely, trauma to the brain in early infancy.

There are four classifications of the condition; spastic, athetoid, ataxic and mixed, with spastic cerebral palsy accounting for 70% of all people with the condition.

Massage techniques can be adapted as needed;  some people will not need all aspects of them and you can select those which are more useful based on individual need.

Cerebral palsy is not progressive in terms of the initial brain injury; the brain injury itself does not progress but as the person grows up the impact of the injury becomes more apparent and as the muscle spasticity continues then joints can be pulled out of place. Massage can give symptomatic relief for the muscle tightness and pain.


Specific Contraindications

If you are treating an adult with mild cerebral palsy you can treat the person as you would for any other massage - there are no barriers to treatment for people affected mildly.
The only contraindication to massage for clients with cerebral palsy is if the client cannot speak to express their wishes and to comment on depth.  It is important for the practitioner to be sensitive to verbal and nonverbal cues given by the client and to respond accordingly.  If the client and the person administering the massage do not know each other, it is important for the client's sense of security to have someone that they do know present so that they feel safe during the massage.


Massage Treatments

It is important to work gently and use small stroking movements both up and across the muscles.  Try to make the massage quite mobile so that as you work you are gently moving the part of the body you are working on - this help to introduce movement without resistance from the muscles.









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