For many of the estimated 800,000 people in the U.S. living with cerebral palsy, life can be difficult and often painful. Due to their disorder, people who have cerebral palsy can have a wide assortment of physical and mental challenges that they are forced to manage throughout their lives. Although there is no cure, breakthroughs in medications and therapy can help with many of the symptoms and reduce the pain and dysfunction associated with the condition.
What is cerebral palsy?
Cerebral palsy (CP), put simply, is a brain condition that impairs motor function in the body. There are different types and a wide variety of symptoms, varying from mild to severe. Some symptoms of the various types can be seizures, muscle tightness and spasms, mental retardation, and many other maladies. The causes for the disorder are generally attributed to brain abnormalities that can happen before birth or within the first two years of development, due to lack of oxygen, infection, brain trauma and other complications.
Managing pain with cerebral palsy
Managing pain can be sometimes overlooked when treating CP. One the main symptoms that causes ongoing pain for CP patients is spastic muscles. Due to the muscles tightening and lack of muscle control by the brain, spasticity can occur. This is an imbalance in the signals coming from the brain to the muscles, causing them to continuously be at work, day and night, and often leads to chronic and constant pain.
Since much of the pain associated with CP is due to spastic muscle conditions, the best treatments seem to be geared towards relieving this condition. Common drug treatments to help calm spastic muscles and the pain derived from them are Botox injections, muscle relaxants and a newer device called a baclofen pump.
Baclofen is a muscle relaxant that was introduced in 1967 as an oral medication to treat spasticity. In 1996, the FDA approved the baclofen pump that releases an intrathecal injection of baclofen directly into the spinal cord. A small pump the size of a hockey disc is implanted under the skin and discharges the medication through a catheter directly into the spinal fluid. This method of administrating the drug has seemed to increase its effectiveness in helping reduce spastic muscles, and in turn, reduce pain for many cerebral palsy patients.
Encouraging Findings Demand More Research For CP
While researchers continue to search for a cure, there is hope for some patients to reduce their pain and improve their quality of life. Devices such as the baclofen pump are steps in the right direction to creating opportunities for increased mobility and lessened pain for the many people living with cerebral palsy.
Indeed, while this device is an important development, there is much work that needs to be done in order to help people with CP lead a more comfortable and active life. As cerebral palsy attorneys we applaud this work and all efforts being made to improve the lives of this particularly vulnerable group.