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What are the Types of Cerebral Palsy?



Cerebral palsy (CP) is a vast neurological disorder with several subtypes, all of which affect the movement of different body parts. The cause of this motor disorder typically arises from damage to the areas of the developing brain that control motor abilities. Cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability in childhood, and around 8,000 to 10,000 babies and infants are diagnosed with the disorder annually. Most will live a long and healthy life, dealing with the challenges of a brain injury.

Symptoms of CP vary from person to person. While someone afflicted with a severe case may need special equipment and lifelong care, an individual experiencing a mild case of cerebral palsy may not have any visible challenges or require specialized assistance. However, some of the problems that people experiencing CP face include:

  • Altered walking (gait)
  • Difficulty maintaining posture
  • Challenged speech (dysarthria), and/or challenged swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Motor control difficulties (discoordination or ataxia)
  • Tight muscles (spasticity or dystonia)
  • Involuntary movements (chorea)
  • Problems with joint aches, pain, and mobility

Types of Cerebral Palsy

Understanding the area of the brain that is affected and how severely the development or injury to the brain has impacted muscle tone can aid doctors in classifying the type of CP.

Doctors will diagnose a client with four main types of cerebral palsy.

1.) Spastic Cerebral Palsy

Making up 70 to 80 percent of cases, this is the most common type of CP. Through damage to the brain’s motor cortex, which controls voluntary movement, and/or the pyramid tracts, which relay signals to the muscles, an individual may develop Spastic CP. Because of this, spastic cerebral palsy can also be referred to as “pyramidal.”

Those with this disorder often experience stiff or restricted movements, and some common symptoms include:

  • Problems with posture
  • Stiff or rigid body
  • Abnormal walking
  • Poor coordination and control of muscle movements
  • Continuous muscle spasms and contractions
  • Flexion at the elbows, wrists, and fingers

2.) Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy

Dyskinetic, also called Athetoid Cerebral Palsy, is caused by the damage to the brain’s basal ganglia. These areas of the brain are responsible for regulating messages to the body to help initiate and suppress movements. Damage to the basal ganglia, located deep within the cerebral hemispheres, compromises voluntary movement, and often results in uncontrollable movement. Approximately 10 percent of children with cerebral palsy, will be diagnosed with dyskinetic CP.

The common symptoms associated with this type of cerebral palsy include:

  • Involuntary limb movements
  • Difficulty walking
  • Struggling with grasping or manipulating objects
  • Issues eating
  • Difficulty speaking

3.) Ataxic Cerebral Palsy

Making up a small percentage of all cases — 5% to 10% of all people diagnosed — ataxic CP causes problems with coordination and balance. Because it’s caused by damage mainly to the cerebellum, the coordination center of the brain, the insult to this area results in the following symptoms:

  • Incoordination
  • Unsteady movements
  • Tremors
  • Slurred speech (sometimes breathy and monotone voice when speaking)
  • Slow eye movements
  • Difficulties making quick and precise movements

4.) Mixed Cerebral Palsy

CP not confined to one area or location and may develop the characteristics of multiple brain injuries. Around 10% of all people who have cerebral palsy have the mixed type of the disorder. The most common form of mixed cerebral palsy is a combination of spastic and dyskinetic CP.

Some symptoms include:

  • Stiffness
  • Issues with coordination
  • Tremors or shakiness
  • Abnormal reflexes
  • Exaggerated, jerky movements

It’s crucial to diagnose cerebral palsy early on to receive the assistance needed to aid in the development of neuro-typical abilities. The earlier the treatment process, the higher likelihood of improving their capabilities. While there is no cure for cerebral palsy, traditional treatments (chiropractic, physical, occupational, and speech therapies), and novel therapies such as sensory-motor integration, hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), and nutritional support, can help improve motor functions and lessen other symptoms.

No one treatment works best for all those with CP, and it’s essential to work with your medical professional to know the best route for you or your loved one.

At Plasticity® Centers, our clinical team has helped thousands of clients with movement disorders, acquired brain injuries, and many other neurological impairments, overcome their neurological and developmental challenges. With nearly an infinite number of combinations of various exercises and therapies, we provide customized treatments as a part of our clients’ recovery plan. Through client care and innovative technology, we can achieve incredible outcomes by creating programs that are tailored to fit each client’s unique needs. Click here to learn more about our treatment process and how we can help you or your loved one improve their abilities.

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