What happens to the muscles during a growth spurt?
Muscles need to be stimulated and stretched to grow and lengthen. If the muscles can’t stretch, they don’t grow as fast as the bones, and instead they get tighter. This is a problem in children with cerebral palsy because the muscles are often stiff, difficult to control and harder to move through a usual range of movement. Which is why during a growth spurt it’s common for the muscle to become even tighter. For example, it may become more pronounced that a child is walking on their toes as the Achilles tendon becomes increasingly tight.
The importance of staying active
Contracture means shortening of the muscle. A child is at risk of developing a contracture if a muscle is so stiff it can’t stretch. Contractures can be very painful and eventually can cause deformities.
Staying active and keeping up with exercises provided by the physiotherapist are two great ways to keep muscles moving. If you are worried that any muscle group is getting stiffer as a result of a growth spurt, don’t delay in raising it with your physiotherapist.
As children grow and become heavier the muscles have to work harder. Standing and walking may become more effortful for a child. As they grow up they may need different types of mobility aid. For example, to negotiate the long corridors and walks between classes at secondary school, it might be beneficial for a child to use their wheelchair, and save walking for classroom based activities.