Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a group of disorders affecting the body’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. CP is caused by the motor control centres of the brain developing abnormally or sustaining damage, either before birth (congenital CP) or during a child’s early years (acquired CP). CP is non-progressive, although the symptoms experienced vary widely from person to person, ranging from awkward movement and slight issues with coordination to the inability to execute coordinated movement. All people with CP have problems with movement and posture and many also have related conditions such as intellectual disability; seizures; problems with vision, hearing or speech; changes in the spine (such as scoliosis); or joint problems (such as contractures).
Doctors classify CP according to the main type of movement disorder involved. Depending on which areas of the brain are affected, one or more of the following movement disorders can occur:
• Spasticity (Stiff muscles)
The most common type of CP is spastic CP, which affects about 80% of people with the condition. People with spastic CP have increased muscle tone, meaning their muscles are stiff and as a result, their movements can be awkward. Spastic CP is usually described by the parts of the body that are affected:
- Spastic diplegia/diparesis. Muscle stiffness is mainly in the legs, with the arms less affected or not affected at all. People with spastic diplegia might have difficulty walking because tight hip and leg muscles cause their legs to pull together, turn inward and cross at the knees (also known as scissoring).
- Spastic hemiplegia/hemiparesis. This type of CP affects only one side of a person’s body; usually the arm is more affected than the leg.
- Spastic quadriplegia/quadriparesis. This the most severe form of spastic CP and affects all four limbs, the trunk and the face. People with spastic quadriparesis usually cannot walk and often have other developmental disabilities such as intellectual disability; seizures; or problems with vision, hearing or speech.
• Dyskinesia (Uncontrollable movements)
People with dyskinetic CP have problems controlling the movement of their hands, arms, feet and legs, making it difficult to sit and walk. The movements are uncontrollable and can be slow and writhing or rapid and jerky. Sometimes the face and tongue are affected and the person has a hard time sucking, swallowing, and talking. A person with dyskinetic CP has muscle tone that can change (varying from too tight to too loose) not only from day to day, but even during a single day.
• Ataxia (Poor balance and coordination)
People with ataxic CP have problems with balance and coordination. They may struggle with quick movements or movements that need a lot of control, like writing or with controlling their hands or arms when reaching for something.
Because the symptoms of CP can vary so dramatically, so can the variety of orthotics used.
Lycra garments can offer postural benefits as well as help to reduce tone in some instances.
Non ambulators can also benefit from postural/static splinting.
If you would like to discuss your condition with our specialist team, please email us by clicking here or call +44 (0) 1425 481740.