Living with Cerebral Palsy (CP) can be very difficult as it impairs the most basic ability of movement. It is commonly observed that patients suffering from CP have flawed gait, depth perception and balance abilities which make it difficult for them to even move around the house. Physical therapy combined with occupational therapy has proven to be highly effective in managing all these and restoring normal function in patients.
What is gait training?
Gait training is a part of the CP management plan that your physiotherapist and/or rehabilitation therapist will work out for you to improve your motor skills. The training involves a series of exercises mostly repetition of the actual motion performed during walking. The training program can be extensive with a number of assistive equipment like handle bars, walking aides and safety harness used depending on the level of abnormality.
How it benefits?
Gait training is very important in developing and strengthening muscles and joints which are responsible for our ability to walk. Gait training fosters independence in patients with CP by improving balance, posture, increasing range of motion and building endurance.
Gait exercises depend on an individual’s disorder which is detected through gait assessment performed by a physiotherapist before commencing therapy. Gait training is very extensive and involves treadmill training with harness, stepping over objects, leg lifting exercises, sitting and standing exercises to correct posture and training through other assistive equipment. The intensity and duration of these exercises depends on the assessment results. Here are a few basic exercises of the lower limb to help you improve your motoring skills.
Exercise #1 Heel to Toe Walking
Walking heel to toe is important as it improves stability and increases quality of gait by eliminating unnecessary movement. The exercise involves walking at a normal pace but the feet should always land heel first. Generally people tend to put a flat foot forward when walking but it becomes difficult for CP patients to maintain balance that way.
Exercise #2 Foot Wave
To perform this exercise you will have to sit on a neutral surface (edge of your bed). Now, move your feet in a forward wave while your heels are still firmly planted on the ground. To perform the waving motion you will have to lift the frontal part of your feet above the ground. Repeat 5-8 times in 3 sets daily.
Exercise #3 Calf Raise
To perform this exercise you will have to stand in an upright position with comfortable distance between your feet and place your hands on a table or chair for support. Now, gently raise your body upwards by elevating your heels and stressing on the calf muscle. Make sure you hold this position for 2 seconds before relaxing. Repeat 5-8 times in 3 sets daily.
Exercise #4 Toe Curl
This exercise is performed in seated position with your feet placed at a comfortable distance. Now, move your toes towards your body by curling them inwards. Repeat 5-8 times in 3 sets daily.
Though effective these exercises are no substitute to a physiotherapist and/or rehabilitation therapist’s guidance. Get in touch with your physiotherapist for an individual treatment plan which will ensure rapid improvement in motoring abilities of CP patients.