This article aims to evaluate the effects of hippotherapy on body functions, activities, and participation in children with CP of various functional levels by using the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health-Children and Youth (ICF-CY) checklist. This trial was conducted at China Medical University and in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki and the Guidelines for Good Clinical Practice in Taiwan.
For this study, fourteen children with cerebral palsy (CP) (3–8 years of age) were recruited for a 36-week study composed of baseline, intervention, and withdrawal phases (12 weeks for each phase, ABA design). Hippotherapy was implemented for 30 min once weekly for 12 consecutive weeks during the intervention phase. Body Functions (b) and Activities and Participation (d) components of the ICF-CY checklist were used as outcome measures at the initial interview and at the end of each phase.
Over the 12 weeks of hippotherapy, significant improvements in ICF-CY qualifiers were found in neuromusculoskeletal and movement-related functions (b7), mobility (d4) and major life areas (d8) and, in particular, mobility of joint functions (b710), muscle tone functions (b735), involuntary movement reaction functions (b755), involuntary movement functions (b765), and play (d811) (all p < 0.05) when compared with baseline.
This study demonstrated the beneficial effects of hippotherapy on body functions, activities, and participation in children with CP. This longitudinal study demonstrated the beneficial effects of hippotherapy in CP children through improvements in impairment and limitation of functioning and disability according to the results of the ICF-CY assessment.
Research findings suggest that the positive effects of hippotherapy may vary depending on the initial gross motor functional level of children with CP.
In conclusion, this study demonstrated the beneficial effects of hippotherapy on body functions, activities, and participation in children with CP. Hippotherapy provided by licensed health professionals may be used in conjunction with standard physical therapy for improving physiologic function, execution of activities, and involvement in a life situation in children with CP at various functional levels.