As parents, there is always the concern that your baby is not developing appropriately or might be suffering from a physical condition. It becomes even more difficult if you come to think that many types of conditions or disabilities cannot be identified before the age of five. Globally, cerebral palsy is deemed to be the number one motor disability in childhood, with 1 in 323 children suffering from it or a condition caused by it.

In Canada, most prevalent disabilities in infants aged between 0 and 4 are related to either a chronic health condition or a developmental delay[1]. Cerebral palsy is among the most common condition among children. Currently, there are over 43,000 Canadians living with cerebral palsy. Out of these, between 15 to 60% also suffer from epilepsy as a result[2].

Cerebral palsy manifests itself before, during or shortly after birth and it is usually caused by an injury in the developing brain. Consequently, this causes a wide range of disabilities itself, by affecting muscle control, strength, movement, balance or neurological function. In its most severe forms, it can impair hearing and vision and cause learning disabilities and seizures.

Besides the debilitation and decreased quality of life, these disorders are also financially strenuous. Ranging from medication to surgery or various therapies, such as music, speech or occupational, the average lifetime cost of management or treatment of various illnesses and disabilities caused by cerebral palsy is estimatedat over $921,000 per person[3].

Complimentary medicine can help

A less expensive and non-invasive, but often overlooked option is physiotherapy. Since every patient is unique in how they are experiencing conditions, a physiotherapist will work to create customized objectives. For example, some babies may have postural problems leading them to hold their shoulders up, next to their ears. To correct this, gentle stroking and repetitively applying pressure down on their shoulders can help them achieve a better posture. Other techniques can be aimed at genetic or neuromuscular conditions and chronic disorders.

Physiotherapy can play a key role in promoting adequate positions and body movement patterns, improve developmental skills and muscle function, alleviate pain and help overcome challenges. Among the most common trainings, we can count ball exercising to boost strength and crawling, kneading and stretching, head control and compression exercises, or techniques to improve flexibility and balance throughout the body.

Paediatric physiotherapy is a fundamental service in managing developmental disabilities, such as cerebral palsy. It can also play an important role in diagnosing and identifying disorders through assessments. These assessments should be done regularly as they are relevant to the overall

management. The majority of children will visit a physiotherapist every 6 to 12 months depending on how severe the condition is, or if sudden changes occur.

Nevertheless, before choosing a practitioner parents should do thorough research and have more than one option. As many benefits as physiotherapy may hold, going to an untrained person for this can do more harm than good.