Children with cerebral palsy have a range of neurological disorders that affect their day to day activities like movement, seeing, hearing, thinking or learning. Each child has a different degree of severity in this condition and no two children will have identical disorders. Since there is no cure for this condition, various therapies and exercises are used to control the condition so that it does not get worn over a period of time. To prevent any secondary disabilities from occurring, cerebral palsy fitness training should be started from a young age when the symptoms start to show.
A range of motion and strengthening exercises and cerebral palsy stretching exercise can stimulate the central nervous system to establish normal patterns of movement in children. These neuro-facilitation techniques minimize the impairments and try increasing the motor function. There is no treatment to heal the lesion in the central nervous system, but therapies can make the intact neurons in the brain to substitute for the lost function so that the child gains the lost abilities. This process is termed as neuronal plasticity and the present neuro-facilitation methods stimulate the central nervous system and accelerate the neuromotor maturation.
The Vojta method is common in Eastern Europe and, in the Western world, the neurodevelopmental training technique established by B. Bobath are popular. This is because it is difficult to diagnose cerebral palsy in infants and the procedures that are used to heal the central nervous system are extremely difficult to judge. For this reason, the exercises for a child with cerebral palsy should be planned properly so that it suits the mobility of the child. The therapies that are used should not be just once in a day with the therapist, it should be continued in the form of exercises even after going back home. Only then, the physical therapy will find success and the child can gain maximum function with repeated practice.
The conventional exercises that children with cerebral palsy are made to do consist of a range of active and passive motion exercises, stretching, strengthening and cerebral palsy fitness programs that will improve the cardiovascular condition. These cerebral palsy exercises have to be continued for a lifetime but it is especially important when the child has undergone a surgery and is in the recovery stage. In this period, contracture formation is maximal and patients should be taught stretching exercises to prevent contractures. However, physiotherapists and parents need to be careful while teaching cerebral palsy stretching exercises since there are high chances of muscle fiber tears that can cause pain. Moreover, strengthening exercises should also be done to improve spastic muscles which are weak. Cardiovascular condition plays a vital role for all those people who have to use the wheelchair because of poor motor skills. For a person who is independent, balance is the prerequisite for walking and hence, balance training forms an integral part of the physiotherapy.
Different children with cerebral palsy have different requirements. Exercises or therapies should be framed keeping in mind the condition of the child so that these exercises fulfill the special needs of the child.