What is Cerebral Palsy?

A health article about cerebral palsy from Your Health Online the A to Z directory of dealing with Health Problems & nutritional Self Care Strategies

Cerebral palsy is a chronic condition that affects body
movements and muscle coordination.

It is caused by damage to one or more specific areas of the brain, usually occurring during fetal development, or during infancy.

This has been considered a distinct condition since 1861.

Dr. William John Little, published the first paper describing
the neurological problems of children with spastic diplegia
(also known as cerebral palsy - CP). This is still sometimes
called Little's Disease.

Two children out of every thousand born in America have
cerebral palsy.

At least 5000 infants and toddlers and about
1,400 preschoolers are diagnosed with this condition each

Some of the common symptoms of cerebral palsy

Diagnosing children with CP at a young age is important

Here are some of the symptoms to look for in a newborn child:

• Lack of alertness
• Abnormal cry
• Trembling arms and legs
• Problems sucking and swallowing
• Weak muscle tone
• Favoring one side of the body
• Abnormal reflexes
• Seizures

Muscle Tone

Abnormal muscle tone is very common in people with
cerebral palsy.

Even as newborns, their muscles may change from low tone to high tone. They can also go from floppy to very stiff.

Developmental Delays

If you’re concerned that your child may have cerebral
palsy, look for developmental delays such as:

• Rolling over
• Sitting up
• Crawling
• Talking
• Walking

Types of cerebral palsy

There are 4 types of cerebral palsy.

1. Spastic

Spastic cerebral palsy is characterized by stiff or
permanently contracted muscles. 70-80 percent of people
with CP have this type.

2. Athetoid

Athetoid cerebral palsy is characterized by uncontrolled,
slow movements. 10-20 percent of people have this type of CP.

3. Ataxic

Ataxic CP is characterized by a lack of coordination and
balance. This type of CP accounts for 10 percent of all
cases of CP.

Ataxic CP (or any kind of CP) is not degenerative.

4. Mixed

Mixed CP is when one person has two or more types of CP.

The most common type of mixed CP is Athetoid/Spasticdiplegic or Athetoid/Spastic-hemiplegic.

What Causes cerebral palsy

This next set of tips will talk about some the causes of CP.


There are a number of things that can happen during
pregnancy that can cause your baby to have CP.

Some of these include you getting sick, getting in an accident, or
developing an infection.

Lack of Oxygen

Lack of oxygen at birth is a common cause of this condition
in children.

An adult could also develop CP if he for some
reason is deprived of oxygen.


Any trauma in a child or an adult can cause cerebral palsy.

These can include:
• Car accident
• Head Injury
• Stroke


Brain infection can cause CP.

These infections include:
• Meningitis
• Viral encephalitis

Risk Factors: Who are prone to cerebral palsy

There are several factors that put you at risk of having a child with CP.

This next set of tips will explain a few of these risks.

Age and Race

According to research, the following people have a higher
chance of having a child with CP:

• A mother or a father under 20 years old
• A mother over 40 years old
• African-American ethnicity

Blood Type

There is a rare circumstance where the mom’s and child’s
blood is incompatible. This is called Rh or ABO blood type
incompatibility, and it puts you at risk of having a child
with CP.


In rare cases, your infant’s central nervous system can be
attacked by micro-organisms. This will put him at high risk
of developing cerebral palsy.

Doctor Error

Unfortunately, there are some cases of cerebral palsy
where the doctor was at fault. There are now a ton of
lawyers that are dedicated to bringing these doctors to

If you think a doctor was at fault for your child’s
CP, you can contact www.cerebralpalsy.ws to talk to an

Other Factors

Here are some of the other risk factors associated with CP:

• Bleeding in the brain
• Infection
• Lack of oxygen

When To Seek Medical Attention For cerebral palsy


There are several medications that help with this condition.

This next set of tips will go over some of these medications.

Muscle Relaxants

Muscle relaxants have seen much success in patients with
cerebral palsy. Some of these include:

• Diazepam (Valium)
• Baclofen
• Dantrolene


Anticonvulsant medications help with seizures, which are
very common in CP patients.

Examples of anticonvulsants include:

• Lamictal
• Topomax
• Zonegran
• Trileptal
• Neurontin


Anticholinergics help some of people with CP who have
more severe uncontrollable body movements, or who drool

These medications include:

• Cogentin
• Robinul
• Kemadrin


Dopaminergic drugs affect motor function in the hands,
feet, and other parts of the body.

Here are a couple of examples:

• Artane
• Sinemet


In some cases, a person may require
surgery. This next set of tips will explain
some of these surgeries.


One of the treatments for the condition is Selective Dorsal
Rhizotomy (SDR).

SDR provided permanent reduction of spasticity in cerebral palsy.

The operation consists of cutting the dorsal roots in the spine. This results in reducing spasticity.


Tenotomy is a procedure of cutting an affected tendon or

Tenotomy is used to treat spasticity in cerebral
palsy patients. This surgery helps in serious cases of
cerebral palsy where the possibility of further damage is a
big possibility.


Botox A injections are types of surgeries given to cerebral
palsy patients. These injections can be effective in calming
overactive muscles.

These injections especially help with
muscles in the upper body, arms, legs, and “tiptoe
walking,” which is common with and leg spasticity.

Heel Cord

A lot of times, children with cerebral palsy walk on their

This is because of tight heel cords. Surgery can help
correct it by lengthening the tendon.

It can also help the patient to better learn to walk, and to improve balance.


There are several ways to treat cerebral palsy, along with ways to make coping easier.

This next set of tips will discuss some of these treatments.


Exercise can be a great benefit for people with cerebral

These exercises need to be tailored for each person,
as everyone has their limitations. Ask your doctor or
therapist for his advice before starting any exercise


Some people with CP have found great success with

Make sure you research and find a chiropractor that has experience with dealing with CP.

Electrical Stimulation

Another thing that helps people with cerebral palsy is
Therapeutic Electrical Stimulation (TES). This is done at
night while the patient sleeps.

TES has been proven to add more muscle fiber, and along with exercise and therapy, it helps the patient have better use of his muscles.


Swimming has helped lots of people with CP. Warm water
especially helps stiff muscles to relax. Performing
swimming motions also increases muscle tone and strength.


The Feldenkrais method for cerebral palsy designed to
retrain the body and mind. This method uses a combination
of physical therapy, psychology, and martial arts to retrain
the mind, and develop movement and physical growth.

Adaptive Equipment

Special equipment is also available for children with
cerebral palsy.

Some of these include:
• Wheelchair
• Walker
• Leg braces
• Special Utensils
• Communication aides

Self Care strategies for Living with cerebral palsy


Therapy has done a lot for people (especially children) with cerebral palsy.
This next set of tips will discuss some of these therapies.


Physical therapy helps a child with CP develop stronger
muscles in their legs and trunk. During physical therapy,
your child works on things like walking, sitting, and keeping
his or her balance.


Occupational therapy helps a person with CP develop fine
motor skills, in order to function in everyday life. These
skills can be things like dressing, feeding, writing, and
other daily living tasks.


People with cerebral palsy often have speech delays. Many
times talking is difficult because of problems with muscle
tone in the tongue and throat. Speech therapy helps
develop communication skills, especially speaking.

Sensory Integration

Sensory Integration Therapy (SIT) helps to overcome
problems young children with CP have in absorbing and
processing sensory information. SIT Therapies include
stimulating touch sensations and pressures on different
parts of the body, thus motivating children to learn
sequences of movements.


Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) treatments have seen
some great success in people with cerebral palsy. During
HBOT, the patient enters a tank, and the patient breathes
100% oxygen under pressure (normal outside air usually
only contains about 20% oxygen). This type of therapy
infuses oxygen into the blood and organs, thus a
regenerates and enhances certain tissues, organs, and bone


Hippotherapy is therapy treatment that uses horseback
riding to provide activities that can significantly improve
muscle tone, posture, balance, and walking abilities. The
horse's movement gives a sense of rhythm to the rider as
well as forces the rider to move with the horse.


Craniosacral Therapy (CST) is a treatment involving
massage and the brain and spinal cord. A trained
craniosacral therapist can detect abnormalities, and by
applying pressures to certain parts of the body, it can be
very healing.


Dolphin therapy has been around for more than 25 years.
Research shows that dolphins are able to recognize the
child's deficiency, thus allowing them to connect to the

This results in healing that can lead to
developmental progress.

Space Suit

Space suit therapy is another therapy for children and
adults with cerebral palsy. It provides the following

• Supports weak muscles
• Improves muscle tone
• Improves balance
• Improves gross motor skills


This last set of tips will go over some things that parents of children with CP can do to give you both a better quality of life.


Do your research. New treatments are being discovered
every day to help children with cerebral palsy. Use the
internet to keep yourself abreast of new options that
become available.

Have Fun

Have fun with your child. Do all the things you would do
with a non-disabled child. It’s important that he has all the
childhood experiences that he can.


Always have hope. Don’t let you or your child get
discouraged. When new problems arise, try and deal with
them head on.

Ask for Help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Taking care of a child with
a disability can be very challenging and sometimes

Reach out to family, friends, and neighbors for
help and respite.

Learn to Adapt

Help your child learn to adapt to his disability. Get
creative, and help him to be as independent as he can. This
will boost his self esteem, and make him try even harder.

Don’t Push

It’s important not to push your child. Let him go at his own
pace, which will probably vary as he grows. It’s also
important to let him know you support him, no matter

Don’t Make CP Your Life

While research, doctor visits, therapy are all important,
don’t let CP define you or your child’s life. Have “normal”
days where you just let him be a kid.

Set Goals

Though you shouldn’t push your child, it is important to set

When he’s old enough, sit down with him and set
some very reachable goals. Then be sure to celebrate every
achievement with him.

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We wish you well in your search for solutions to this problem and your movement towards better health in all areas.

More Resources available about cerebral palsy

There are support groups around the world who can give further information and may be usefull for you to check locally in your own area to see what is available.

Here are some examples to review:

USA: United Cerebral Palsy

UK: Scope

AUSTRALIA: Cerebral Palsy Alliance

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