How Swimming Can Help with Young Children Who Have Cerebral Palsy

by | Jul 12, 2019 | Physical Therapy

Cerebral Palsy is the most common motor disability in childhood, according to the CDC. In 2008, 58.2% of children with CP could walk independently, 11.3% walked using a hand-held mobility device, and 30.6% had limited or no walking ability. Secondary problems that can develop as a result of CP include reduced walking speed and a limited ability of children to participate. Abnormal gait can also cause fatigue and pain in some cases. 

In the Journal of Pediatric Physical Therapy, a research report was published showing the amazing benefits of aquatic therapy on children with Cerebral Palsy. The research covered ages of 7- 17 years old and consisted of two groups, a control, and swimming group. The intervention lasted 20 weeks with assessments of both groups taken at the 5, 10 and 20 week marks. At the end of the intervention children who underwent the aquatic intervention doubled their walking distance on land and saw an overall decrease in fatigue and pain. 

Pediatric aquatic physical therapy uses the properties of the water such as buoyancy, hydrostatic pressure, and thermal effects to help with gait impairments and restrictions in range of motion. Aquatic therapy can be used to address impairments in neuromuscular weakness, pain, postural dysfunction, and sensory integration dysfunction. 

To learn more see your pediatric physical therapist and ask about how the water can help with your child’s needs. 

Declerck, M., PT, Verheul, M., PhD, Daly, D., PhD, & Sanders, R., PhD. (2016). Benefits and Enjoyment of a Swimming Intervention for Youth with Cerebral Palsy: An RCT Study. Pediatrics of the American Physical Therapy Association, 162-169.  

Josh Macey, PTA