Paediatrics, the treatment of babies and young children, is a difficult practice as people at a young age are still developing, and hence any rehabilitation must bear that in mind. There is also the complication of dealing with parents who are fraught with worry and concern for their child. A paediatric physiotherapist must both care for the child to the best of their ability, while also communicating clearly with their parents, making sure to keep them informed at all stages of treatment.
Concerns within paediatric physiotherapy
Most hospitals will class paediatric patients as being between the ages of one day and 18, although many patients will be younger as a major cause of children needing physical therapy is developmental. These can include a host of neurological conditions like cerebral palsy, which refers to a number of developmental issues involving damage to a structure of the brain called the cerebrum. The result is limited motor function with some cognitive impairment, although the extent of these consequences varies hugely. Children suffering from cerebral palsy can respond very well to physical therapy.
Paediatric cancers are rare, but when they do occur are extremely traumatic for both the child and their family. The consequence of tumours in any part of the central nervous system can manifest itself as loss of functionality which a physio can address, easing symptoms that are distressing for all parties involved.
Injuries, whether peripheral, like breaks in limbs, or central, like head injuries or spinal trauma, are always treated by a physio experienced in managing such conditions. If improperly treated, fractures or strains sometimes will not fully recover, leading to loss of the full range of motion, postural changes, or physical imbalances in later life.
A physio treating children will often use less conventional methods to engage and encourage their charges. Younger children in particular respond well to games that a qualified and practiced physiotherapist can use as a medium for the exercises and stretches they wish to use during their sessions. Experience is key in this particular field as different children will respond differently to stimuli, and so a good paediatric physiotherapist is able to adjust accordingly and react to a group of patients who are often less efficient at communicating.
You can expect a professional paediatric physiotherapist to have developed and practiced skills involved in caring for your child. Namely, keeping them safe, working with them and their choices to develop their skills, improve their quality of life, and intervene where necessary with your approval and consent.
Paediatric physiotherapy tends to be a holistic approach rather than one isolating the areas of injury, particularly in the treatment of developmental disorders. Your physio will use a combination of strengthening exercises, stretching, and postural and balance training, to develop both gross motor skills like walking and lifting as well as finer skills like object manipulation etc. Depending on the child’s age, a physiotherapist is flexible enough to incorporate ongoing treatment into school and home life, thereby giving as much of a sense of normalcy as possible to your child.
Physios in this specialty need to be gentle and enthusiastic, their role is more comprehensive than in other departments as a developing child has broader needs, as do their parents. The aim of a paediatric physio is to improve both the condition and every other aspect of their patient’s lifestyle and well being.
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