With new advances and studies in treating Cerebral Palsy (CP), it is time to revisit the topic and report some great news.
As you may know, Cerebral Palsy is a term that covers a wide range of non-progressive motor impairment syndromes that affect roughly 20-25 out of 10,000 children in the Western world. Problems may begin before, during, or after birth, and have a variety of possible causes. Infections, traumatic brain injury, near-drowning, and strokes are a handful of potential sources.
The consequences of this one condition are extensive. For example, the skeletal system cannot develop properly without fully functional muscles putting tension on them. Speaking is difficult is when one is physically unable to master respiratory control or facial muscles. We take smiling and frowning for granted, but each of those requires an intricate combination of muscles that someone with Cerebral Palsy may or may not be able to use. Then there is the pain from tight, shortened muscles and the awkward positions in which the patient’s body sits by consequence.
Injury of any kind requires oxygen to heal properly. Even if there is no cure per se, oxygen still enables the body to perform some damage control and healing, improving its state of health. In Cerebral Palsy there may be areas of the brain that blood flow does not reach well, and is therefore oxygen starved. Indeed, many of Cerebral Palsy’s causes are a direct result of oxygen starvation, and injuries that never seem to heal may have damage at the cellular or deep tissue level.
Enter Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT). HBOT saturates the entire body in oxygen, directly impacting oxygen starvation. But it also has indirect effects, such as stimulating the production of new blood vessels and stem cells, to deliver more oxygen, nutrients, and repair capability.
Studies involving both animals and humans show that Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy helps restore proper blood flow to all parts of the brain, and to aid in healing and regenerating damaged or unhealthy tissue. In addition, HBOT decreases brain swelling, helps maintain the blood-brain barrier, and restores conduction of nerve impulses between cells. This is especially the case when HBOT is used as soon as possible after brain injury occurs.
While not curative, the results, when used alongside standard therapies, are powerful and long-lasting. Better range of movement and control of muscles, less spasticity (unusual muscle “tightness”), increased attentiveness and cognitive function are all possible when utilizing HBOT.
And here is some of the most promising proof yet published:
Researchers published a study in the April, 2014 issue of Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine Journal demonstrating the effectiveness of HBOT for improving the motor skills of children with Cerebral Palsy. They divided 150 children with Cerebral Palsy into four groups. One group received standard intensive physiotherapy. The others received intensive physiotherapy and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy in several different gas mixtures and pressures. They received 40, one hour treatments spanning seven weeks.
Each child underwent assessment to test gross motor function before treatment began, then again at two, four, six, and eight months following treatment. The result? All children saw improvement, but the physio/HBOT groups saw significantly more improvement than physio-only group.
As the researchers wrote: “The eight-month-long benefits we have observed with combined treatments vs. rehabilitation can only have been due to a beneficial effect of hyperbaric treatment.”
That is real hope. So if you find that results from standard treatment have hit a plateau, or that you want to augment what is already working well, call our naturopath clinic to schedule a consultation. We will help. We live in hope too.
It is important to remember the HBOT is a medical procedure, so it carries benefits and risks. That is why the naturopath doctors at the Nardella Clinic screen every potential HBOT patient to ensure the best safety and effectiveness.