Virginia Tech scientists study constraint-induced movement therapy for kids with cerebral palsy

Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 8:47 PM EDT
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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - A new study from scientists at Virginia Tech says children with cerebral palsy respond better to large doses of intense physical therapy.

“The kind of therapy that we use for the children involves putting either a cast or splint on their arm that is their more functional arm, and then focusing treatment on the arm that has been impaired,” explains Dr. Sharon Ramey, lead principal investigator for CHAMP.

The study was a five-year process in which almost 120 children between the ages of two and eight were evaluated.

“The treatment involves shaping behaviors,” she continues. “So a child who scarcely can move at all, just a little movement of the arm or the fingers, we reinforce. The therapists are highly skilled in eliciting the behavior so the child can eventually gain voluntary control.”

“We found that three-hour sessions, five days weekly, for a month of this kind of therapy, really produced meaningful, clinically meaningful benefits that lasted at least six months. Pretty soon, we’ll find out if they lasted even longer than that.”

Dr. Ramey says this kind of therapy, while rigorous, is also rewarding.

“Although it sounds like, are we being too demanding to ask a family and a child to have this much treatment? The answer is no. We hope this will become a standard of care for all children who have cerebral palsy.”

The Neuromotor Research Clinic recruits families to participate in research studies that provide therapy to children with certain movement disorders.

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