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What is spina bifida?

Spina bifida is the term used to describe a series of birth defects in babies affecting the development of the spine and neural system. The severity of the neural defect can vary and spina bifida is classified into 3 types:
  • Spina bifida occulta: the most common and least serious form that usually does not require treatment. In this type there is only a tiny gap between the vertebrae.
  • Spina bifida meningocele: the rarest type where the bones of the vertebrae develop normally, however the protective membranes of the spinal cord are pushed out. This can be removed surgically and no further treatment is usually required.
  • Mylomeningocele: this is the most serious form where the spinal column remains open causing the membranes and spinal cord to push out creating a sac that may or may not be covered by skin. In this case there may be extensive damage to the nervous system.

Upper limb strength and mobility exercises using a resistance bandAbove: Upper limb strength and mobility exercises using a resistance band

What are the effects of spina bifida?

The effects of spina bifida will vary according to the type, location and amount of nerve damage in the spinal cord. In mylomeningocele there may be:
  • Partial or complete paralysis of the parts of the body below the spinal level affected, which impacts on development of gross motor skills such as sitting, standing and walking
  • Altered sensation
  • Altered bladder and bowel control
  • Hydrocephalus (excessive fluid in the brain)
  • Secondary effects of altered muscle control impact on musculoskeletal system (can lead to dislocated joints, scoliosis etc)

How can physiotherapy help spina bifida?

The effects of spina bifida can impact enormously on a child's function and physiotherapy should commence as soon as possible in order to maximise a child's potential and quality of life. Treatment will vary according to the severity of the condition. Our specialist physiotherapists can provide treatment which may include:
  • Maximising independence in functional activities such as standing, transferring and walking
  • Provision of mobility aids and equipment to increase independence
  • Exercises to maintain or improve muscle strength and length
  • Anticipating, preventing and minimising secondary effects such as development of contractures
  • Positioning and postural advice
  • Teaching wheelchair skills to maximise independence
  • Provision of appropriate orthotics
  • Exercises to improve balance and coordination to prevent risk of falls

Why Manchester Physio?

  • No waiting lists
  • One on one treatment
  • Dedicated, patient centred approach
  • Specialist physiotherapists
  • Knowledgeable regarding specialist equipment
  • Ongoing treatment at any stage of the condition
  • Access to other health professionals available
  • Motivated, caring staff
  • Proven track record
We understand that living with spina bifida can be difficult for children and parents. Our team of specialist physiotherapists can provide assessment and treatment for your child and give you reassurance and support and make your lives easier.

Manchester Physio can provide treatment of children with spina bifida across Greater Manchester and Cheshire. We can provide assessment and treatment at our clinic, a child's school or at your home for your convenience.

See our testimonials to read about the experiences of current and past patients.

To find out more please contact us or arrange a free phone consultation.

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