Pediatric Physical Therapy
Pediatric physical therapy assists children (ages 0-21 years), who have movement difficulties which limit their ability to perform functional daily activities. Physical therapists assess and treat problems associated with strength, range of motion, endurance, gross motor functioning, walking (gait), and pain using a child centered focus. Physical therapists utilize a variety of treatment techniques specially designed for each child. Some of these include Neuro-Developmental Treatment (NDT), developmental activities, therapeutic exercise, gait training, balance and coordination training, and manual therapy. Physical therapists provide recommendations for adaptive equipment as needed including wheelchairs, walkers, forearm crutches, canes, and lower extremity bracing/orthotics. Physical therapists work closely with each family to develop an individualized therapy program to help each child to reach their maximum potential.
Some of the diagnoses that may require physical therapy include (but are not limited to): cerebral palsy, developmental delay, torticollis, genetic disorders, birth defects, spina bifida, muscle diseases, orthopedic conditions, neurological conditions, cardiopulmonary conditions, pain disorders, and sports injuries.
Frequently Asked Questions
If I put my baby in a baby walker or jumper will he/she walk earlier?
NO: Baby walkers and jumpers are not recommended to be used with infants. They are both unsafe and associated with injuries including severe head injuries, broken bones, skull fractures, and even death. In addition, these devices can delay development and strengthen inappropriate muscles leading to additional problems with posture, balance, toe walking, and foot position. Placement in these devices prevents an appropriate balance of trunk extensors and flexors from developing, which can lead to delays in development. Lastly, when used too early, baby walkers can satisfy a child's desire to move, therefore taking away a child's motivation to crawl or walk independently. Please refer to the American Academy of Pediatrics web site for additional information and resources.
Will it help my baby's balance and strength to allow him/her to play in bare feet?
YES: Have your child play in bare feet, starting early. This allows the muscles of the foot to strengthen and the child to develop appropriate balance reactions in a standing position. It also allows for sensory stimulation to the feet. Be sure to provide a safe, clean, and warm environment when your child is working in bare feet.
My child prefers to W-sit frequently throughout the day, so I should change my child's sitting position and encourage alternative ways to sit?
YES: W-sitting is not recommended for any child. Children may move through the w-sitting posture during play, however this becomes concerning when a child remains in a w-sitting position for longer durations and frequently throughout the day. Children may prefer w-sitting for several reasons including a sensation of more stability without fear of losing balance and the position requires less physical work to maintain. Excessive w-sitting can lead to a variety of orthopedic complications including muscle tightness, muscle weakness, and predispose a child to hip dislocations. This can also encourage abnormal movement patterns in children with neurological impairments. In addition, w-sitting does not allow for trunk rotation, which can lead to concerns to trunk strength, the ability to cross midline during functional play, and can discourage the development of a hand preference. Please discuss toe walking concerns with your pediatrician or contact Medical Support Services, Inc. for additional information.
Is my child destined to be a ballerina or a track athlete because he/she is always walking on his/her toes?
NO: Children walking on their toes throughout the day is not normal. When children learn to walk, they may walk with their feet positioned in many different ways, but if your child is walking on tiptoes frequently, you should discuss it with your pediatrician. In many cases, tiptoe walking is a bad habit that needs to be addressed. This is called idiopathic toe walking (meaning there is no known cause), but it can also be a sign of a shortened Achilles tendon, neurological problems, or sensory problems. Children who walk on theirs toes most of the time should be evaluated for physical therapy or it should be discussed with the child's pediatrician to determine cause and possible treatment. If left untreated, the child's ankles can become fixed in a tiptoeing position. Muscle weakness and imbalances can accompany tiptoe walking and posture can suffer. Other joints and muscles can be affected from longstanding tiptoe walking. Treatment options for children that tiptoe walk include stretches, physical therapy, bracing the ankles, Botox, casting, or surgery.
If my baby is diagnosed with torticollis, he/she will be delayed with development as well.
NO: Torticollis literally means “twisted neck”. In torticollis a muscle on one side of the neck, typically the sternocleidomastoid or SCM muscle is tight and the SCM on the opposite side is over stretched and weak. A physical therapist will evaluate the severity of the torticollis and give parents stretches and exercises to complete at home, as well as implement a physical therapy treatment program. Children diagnosed with positional or congenital torticollis are frequently typically developing with their gross motor skills. If the torticollis is not treated, or is thought to be caused by vision or other issues, delays in development may occur due to other systems involved, but not due to the tight neck muscles.