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Cerebral Palsy & Improving Quality of Life: 4 Ways Physiotherapy Can Help

Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a congenital neurological illness affecting many children and adults across Australia, with cases varying in type as well as severity.

As this condition hinders the capacity for muscular control and movement, those living with CP can find it difficult to perform everyday activities; such as walking, moving in and out of seated positions, dressing and the use of household facilities.

Physiotherapy aims to provide the building blocks for movement, with the hopes of promoting a level of self-reliance for CP sufferers, both now and for the future.

Below you’ll find 4 examples of how physiotherapy aims to help those living with CP improve mobility, reduce the risk of future issues and, ultimately, enhance quality of life.

4 Ways Physiotherapy Can Improve Quality of Life for Patients Living with Cerebral Palsy

1. Improved Posture

Physiotherapy aims to improve posture with exercises and tools tailored to the patient’s specific issues.

This can include issues relating to:

· Thoracic kyphosis (overly pronounced forward rounding of the upper torso)

· Lumbar lordosis (overt curving of the lumbar causing the pelvis to tilt)

· Scoliosis (abnormal sideways curvature of the spine)

· Pelvic rotation (on the horizontal plane)

· Anterior or posterior pelvic inclination (pronounced forward or backward tilt of the pelvis)

· Pelvic obliquity (pronounced sideways tilt of the pelvis)

· Knee deformity

· Achilles tendon shortening

Postural development can also help by providing a foundation for treatments aimed at improving walking gait and breathing mechanics.

2. Improved Muscular Tone and Strength

Patients living with athetoid (dyskinetic) cerebral palsy can fluctuate between hypertonia (high muscle tone), causing stiffness in the muscles, and hypotonia (low muscle tone) resulting in loose or ‘floppy’ muscles.

In cases of athetoid CP, physiotherapy is focused on improving overall mobility by working to normalise muscular tone, as best as possible: improving muscular strength and control for better posture and overall movement capacity.

Patients living with spastic cerebral palsy also suffer from hypertonia (either on one side or both sides of the body).

Physiotherapy treatments in cases of spastic CP are often focused on flexibility, via massage and stretching, in an attempt to provide relief and to loosen stiffened muscles.

Specific exercises and tools may also be used to improve joint mobility, as range of motion is another key priority for patients in these cases.

3. Improved Balance and Coordination

For patients suffering from ataxic cerebral palsy, treatment is often focused on strength, flexibility and massage to aid in the improvement of ataxic CP’s characterised issues i.e. inhibited balance and coordination.

Physiotherapists may also prescribe the use of orthotics, splints and casts to aid ataxic CP sufferers with walking stability.

4. Reducing the Risk of Future Issues

Improving strength and flexibility for patients with cerebral palsy can go a long way in the prevention of future issues.

Issues including permanent muscular shortening (contractures), caused by prolonged hypertonic spasticity, or joint dislocations caused by prolonged muscular hypotonia.


As mentioned earlier, cerebral palsy is a neurological condition; affecting muscular tone, reflex control, movement and coordination.

How much physiotherapy, and the degree of treatment needed, really depends on the intensity and type of the cerebral palsy in question.

However, it is commonly agreed that the earlier physiotherapy treatments can begin, the better the chances are for improving quality of life, both now and in the future.

For more information about how Back on Track Physiotherapy can help someone you know who is living with cerebral palsy, feel free to contact our offices on

1300 764 188 or by sending us an email at


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