Physical Therapy Improves Pulmonary Function in Children With Cerebral Palsy

Physical rehabilitation concept. Young physiotherapist helping teenage boy in wheelchair to do exercises at home. Disabled adolescent training with dumbbells, working out his muscles indoors
A meta-analysis examined the effect of physical therapy interventions on spirometry and respiratory muscle strength in children with cerebral palsy.

A meta-analysis of children with cerebral palsy found that physical therapy had a positive effect on maximal inspiratory pressure, maximal expiratory pressure, and peak expiratory flow, according to the results of a recent study published in the Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Journal.

A search of the PubMed, Embase, CINAHL, Web of Science, Medline, OVID SP, Cochrane, EBSCO nursing, EBSCO Academic Search Ultimate, and PsycINFO databases identified 1508 articles studies assessing the effect of physical therapy on the respiratory system in children with cerebral palsy. Data extracted included descriptions of the interventions and study results; outcomes of interest were changes in spirometry and respiratory muscle strength.

Investigators ultimately identified 10 studies representing a total of 269 children aged 5 to 18 years with cerebral palsy meeting criteria for the meta-analysis. The studies had 5 different therapeutic methods: inspiratory muscle training, aerobic training, swimming, respiratory exercise, and exercise with elastic bands. In assessing outcomes of interest, investigators found that physical therapist intervention led to a significant increase in the maximal expiratory pressure, peak expiratory flow, and maximum oxygen consumption. The most frequent intervention was inspiratory muscle training, which also showed a positive effect on maximal expiratory pressure in a separate analysis.

The study authors wrote, “Various forms of physical therapy have potential to demonstrate a positive effect on maximal inspiratory pressure, [maximal expiratory pressure], and peak expiratory flow in children with [cerebral palsy]”. They added, “There is no possibility to recommend the best method and duration of the physical therapy; however, it can be suggested that physical therapy should be applied for at least 4 weeks and include [inspiratory muscle training].”


Rutka M, Adamczyk WM, Linek P. Effects of Physical Therapist Intervention on Pulmonary Function in Children With Cerebral Palsy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Phys Ther. 2021;101(8):pzab129. doi:10.1093/ptj/pzab129