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What is Cerebral Palsy?

Oct 06th, 2023 | by Pauline Chuang

Pauline Chuang

October 06th, 2023

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy (CP) is an umbrella term that refers to a group of disorders affecting a person’s ability to move and maintain posture and balance. ‘Cerebral’ means of the brain and ‘palsy’ refers to impairment of motor function or problems with using the muscles. Cerebral palsy affects body movements, muscle control, muscle tone, coordination, and balance. CP is the most common childhood physical disability. There is an estimated 17 million people worldwide living with CP.

What Are the Causes of Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is caused by abnormal development of the brain or injury to a baby’s brain that occurs before, during, or after birth. Research has shown that there are certain risk factors for CP. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Infection during pregnancy (i.e., CMV, Influenza)
  • Substance abuse
  • Pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy)
  • Abnormalities of the placenta
  • Born prematurely
  • Multiple births (twins/triplets/quadruplets)

What Are the 3 Different Types of CP?

Doctors classify CP according to the main type of movement disorder involved, which depends on which area of the brain is affected. The 3 types of CP are as follows:

1. Spastic CP

  • Spastic is the most common type of CP
  • Presents with muscle stiffness

2. Dyskinetic CP (Also Includes Athetoid, Choreoathetoid, and Dystonic)

  • Presents with uncontrollable movements in the hands, arms, feet, and legs
  • Movements can either be slow and writhing or rapid and jerky

3. Ataxic CP

  • Presents with poor balance and coordination
  • May have a hard time with quick or controlled movements

Mixed CP

  • Having symptoms of more than one type of CP
  • Most common type of mixed CP is spastic-dyskinetic

What Are Some Challenges Children With Cerebral Palsy May Face?

  • Global developmental delay
  • Intellectual disability
  • Pain (usually from contractures, muscle tightness, and abnormal postures)
  • Vision impairment
  • Epilepsy
  • Feeding difficulties
  • Spinal and hip abnormalities
  • Poor bladder & bowel control
  • Hearing impairment

What Are Some Treatment Options for Cerebral Palsy?

There is no cure of CP, but treatment can improve the quality of life and well-being of those living with condition. Treatment may include medications, braces, and therapy. Early intervention should begin as soon as a diagnosis has been made, as it can result in significant improvements in gross motor, fine motor, communication, and oral-motor skills.

  • Physiotherapy may focus on improving mobility, muscular strength, coordination, and endurance.
  • Occupational therapy may target improving upper limb strength, upper extremity function, and posture to support activities of daily living, such as dressing.
  • Speech and language pathology may support with increasing speech intelligibility (i.e., ability to be understood) and developing expressive and receptive. Speech therapy may also support developing oral motor skills related to feeding in the early years such as sucking.

About the Author

As a creative and dedicated physiotherapist, Pauline always strives to create a supportive environment for kids to develop the confidence and competence to reach their goals. She believes in making therapy fun, interactive, and individualised so that it is enjoyable and meaningful to each child. You can spot Pauline at NAPA with the biggest smile, colorful socks, and contagious enthusiasm & positivity.

About NAPA Centre

In this blog, NAPA paediatric therapist discusses cerebral palsy, including treatment and therapy options available at NAPA Centre clinics.At NAPA Centre, we take an individualised approach to therapy because we understand that each child is unique with very specific needs. We embrace differences with an understanding that individualised programs work better. For this reason, no two therapeutic programs are alike. If your child needs our services, we will work closely with you to select the best therapies for them, creating a customised program specific to your child’s needs and your family’s goals. Let your child’s journey begin today by contacting us to learn more.

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