As we spend a lot of time moving Charlie using ABM principles we have also found that massage has become a nice way of implementing movements away from the dreaded ‘stretches’. Charlie much prefers the idea of movement to stretches- most likely as it is a lot less intense and a heck a lot less painful.
I think Charlie had reached the end of his tether with traditional passive stretching- he found it uncomfortable and left us in no doubt he didn’t like it- from being 3 he would regularly tell us it hurt and ‘I don’t love you Daddy’ when doing it. For him to have to say that and me to hear it was not pleasant- whether we thought it was helpful or not. ABM principles suggests that pain and discomfort moves the brain out of a ‘learning’ and much more into a defensive and primal mode- it makes sense; pain = fight or flight! This fight or flight reaction is associated with the sympathetic nervous system, the brain’s survival instinct- it is certainly NOT associated with learning! If optimum learning is to be achieved it should be done in a relaxed fashion so the body utilises the ‘openness’ of the parasympathetic nervous system– relaxing heart rate and blood pressure. I can completely get on board with this- it’s common sense surely?
In fact, even NICE, the agency that advices the NHS on treatments, has now suggested that passive stretching needs to be done for more than 30mins to be beneficial and therefore not greatly effective for spasticity in children with CP. That is not to say we don’t do stretching- just not ‘sit there while I pull your muscles’ stretches. Instead we do dynamic stretches that are more associated with movement; like standing or kneeling with 1 foot forward, high reaching and bending down to pick things up. We still spend lots of time doing these, and Charlie is much happier…
So, when we get to bedtime we usually spend 20 minute massaging Charlies legs and feet. We pay particular attention to his feet as they are regularly cold- as he isn’t as active on his feet the blood isn’t actively moved though them using a active return system and therefore reduces the efficiency of his circulation. Massaging his feet also acts as a proprioceptive (‘feeling’) feedback, hopefully helping to establish the links and pathways to his brain. We use comfortable but reasonably deep pressure whilst massaging and moving and we have started to use essential oil as a more natural remedy too.
Rather than just use a carrier oil like baby oil we use coconut oil (the world has gone mad for coconut oil!) we add drops of therapeutic grade essential oil. Firstly it smells great but when you look into the supposed benefits of certain oil on the body it makes sense to try some.
We use a number of essential oils dropped into the coconut oil:
Frankincense. Antiseptic , astringent, improves quality of the skin, boosts immune system, lowers blood pressure and increases bio-availability of oxygen to the brain (great for headaches)
Cypress. Antiseptic, ANTISPASMODIC, slight sedative, promotes healing
Peppermint. Increases immunity, increases circulation, reduces pain
Lemongrass. Anti-depressant, antibacterial, antiseptic, reduces inflammation
Cedarwood. Antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, ANTISPASMODIC, reduces blood pressure, stimulate metabolism, insect repellant
Ginger. Anti-depressant, reduces inflammation and muscle pain
Eucalyptus. Anti-inflammatory, ANTISPASMODIC, decongestant, increases immunity, stimulates mental activity, antiseptic
Obviously it is worth trying to check what each do to help but anecdotally there is lots of evidence to suggest essential oils and aromatherapy is useful in CP treatment. There are many…