Physical therapy (PT) is an important part of managing
cerebral palsy (CP). It usually starts soon after
diagnosis. It may begin earlier, depending on the symptoms. Some people with CP
continue physical therapy throughout their lives, especially those with severe
The goals of physical therapy are to:
Foster independence by improving functional
Strengthen and encourage the growth of
Improve the ability to move all parts of the
Prevent joints from becoming tight or permanently bent
As part of a child's physical therapy, parents may be taught ways to
keep their child's muscles strong and joints flexible. Physical therapists may
work with parents on the following simple approaches:
Exercise the child's limbs through interactive
Set aside times for active physical play with other members
of the family.
Encourage young children to move and play, such as
by banging pots together and slapping their hands on the
Encourage the child to play with others who are the same
Physical therapy also may include the use of:
Special positions, exercises, and cushions to
help keep a child in a more natural position.
Braces, casts, and
splints to help straighten and support the child's joints. These devices also
may help manage uncontrolled limb movements.
and other devices for increased mobility.
A special plastic jacket
that is individually molded to prevent the spine from curving more. Curves in
the spine (scoliosis) sometimes develop in teens with cerebral
Equipment for constraint-induced movement therapy, also
called shaping. This approach encourages a child to increase movements through
presenting interesting activities or objects and giving praise and rewards when
a child makes attempts to use the less-functioning muscles.
ByHealthwise Staff Primary Medical ReviewerSusan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics Specialist Medical ReviewerLouis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics