For several years, a form of therapy known as Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy, or CI therapy, has been used to help people who have suffered strokes relearn how to use certain parts of their body that they could not make use of due to damage in their brains. It involves constraining the parts of the body that are working properly and forcing patients to use those parts of the body that they no longer use. In many cases, this type of therapy has led to positive results for survivors of strokes who to that point struggled with using one side of their bodies.
Recently, researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham decided to try this therapy on children who were struggling with hemiparetic cerebral palsy, or cerebral palsy that tends to affect one side of the body. They chose 10 children who were between the ages of 2 and 7 and put them through three weeks of this therapy. MRI scans were taken on each of them three weeks before the therapy began, just before the therapy began and immediately after completing three weeks of this therapy in order to measure any progress that was made.
The study found not only that CI therapy helped the children learn how to use those parts of the body that they struggled with prior to the therapy, but the MRI scans also found that these children experienced a growth in the gray matter of their brains. The gray matter is basically the part of the brain that controls movements, so CI therapy showed that it could help stimulate that part of the brain as the children learned how to adapt and use those sides of their bodies.
The researchers were careful to point out that the therapy that was done at the research facility was only part of the entire process. Parents of the children involved in the study were also asked to continue this therapy at home by prompting their children to continue to use those parts of the body that were being focused on as they handled basic daily tasks such as getting dressed, brushing their teeth and eating meals.
The encouraging results of this study have led to calls for additional testing of CI therapy for children with this form of cerebral palsy. The hope is that a standard protocol can be formulated and that more children can experience improvements with regards to their overall physical capabilities. For now, the 10 children who benefitted from this work are reportedly continuing to work on their newly found skills at home with the help of their parents.
We have been representing children who contracted cerebral palsy because of mistakes that were made during their births as New York medical malpractice lawyers for 42 years. We have seen the struggles that these young people are forced to endure, and the team at The Fitzgerald Law Firm hopes that this study does ultimately come to be seen as a breakthrough that allows many other children to enjoy improvement in their quality of life.