Pathologies, Massage, and Contraindications Part 8 Cerebral Palsy – By Vanessa Ragains

In the previous post, we learned about Multiple Sclerosis, the different types, and how massage can relieve the client and when it will make their flares worse. MS is a disease in which the myelin sheaths around the motor and sensory neurons in the Central nervous system degenerate. Most importantly, our communication and research that we need to do in order to determine whether we should provide bodywork to our client during a flare should be our first goal! With the different types of MS our client may be dealing with, we must be aware and flexible with the techniques that will reduce the symptoms instead of increasing the discomfort they may be experiencing. This week, we will dive into Cerebral Palsy. This disease develops around infancy or possibly in the whom. Let’s take a closer look at this complicated matter.

Pathologies, Massage, and Contraindications Part 8 Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy defined: Cerebral Palsy is an injury to the Central Nervous system that occurs in the womb, at birth, or during infancy. The injuries affect the development in motor skills and certain functions of our brain. They can affect our sensory and cognitive reactions.

Types of Cerebral Palsy: 

Spastic CP: This is the most common form where muscle tone is so high that the tight muscle’s antagonists have to let go.

  1. Antagonist and agonist muscles often occur in pairs, called antagonistic pairs. As one muscle contracts, the other relaxes. An example of an antagonistic pair is the biceps and triceps; to contract – the triceps relaxes while the biceps contracts to lift the arm.

Athetoid CP: This type involves involuntary writhing movements of the extremities, face, and mouth.

Ataxic CP: This type is rare, and involves chronic shaking, intention tremors, and very poor balance.

Dystonic CP: Involves slow, involuntary twisting movements of the trunk (torso) and extremities.

Mixed CP: This is a combo of all the different types.

Signs and Symptoms:

Depending on where the damage has taken effect in the brain will determine which symptoms the client experiences. These symptoms begin to occur at 6 months to early toddlerhood. An Adult with CP will tend to age at a much faster rate. Activities are more draining and their muscles fatigue quickly. This Central Nervous System damage is irreversible so finding ways to manage rather than treat the symptoms are the best way to manage functionality. Speech therapy can support the CP patient to exercise the muscles we use to speak clearly every day.

Massage Therapy combined with physical therapy, and occupational therapy are commonly used to maintain muscle function and elasticity.

Massage Risks:

Since communication can be very limited it is important that the Massage Therapist is able to understand their non-verbal cues during their session. Any numbness the client may be experiencing is where massage becomes contraindicated. Intrusive massage techniques can trigger seizures  when over challenging the muscle tissue.

Massage Benefits: Massage can relief tension, pain and stress in CP clients. It can also support in healthy digestion.

My opinion: 

I have worked weekly on a client who had CP. This situation was rewarding seeing the progress in certain tendons as the range of motion was being reestablished within the function of the joints. My client was impressed with this progress and was eager to continue with the sessions. There were times where my client was not up to receiving bodywork. If there was a gap longer than 2 weeks, we had to recreate the length in the tendon. I offered stretches for the client to perform on a regular basis as self-maintenance when we were unable to meet. My clients Self-esteem increased as we worked together because it became difficult to notice his disability as the range of motion increased. It was such a blessing to work with a client dealing with CP.

Is there a Pathology you would be interested in reading about? I would love your suggestions on certain pathologies that you may need to see in the breakdown. Check back next week for our next discussion on Pathologies, Massage, and Contraindications!

Thank you for taking time out of your day to read my blog. I am looking forward to reviewing common and uncommon Pathologies that we may encounter on our journey of being a Massage therapist. For all you awesome clients out there, I hope you learn why massage can actually be contraindicated with certain pathologies and precautions you and your therapist need to take.

I LOVE YOUR QUESTIONS!! Please feel free to ask me a question or comment about what you read today. Looking forward to hearing from radical Folks like yourself!


All this information come from one of my must-have books for the massage career: A Massage Therapist Guide to Pathology. 5th Edition Author: Ruth Werner



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