Cerebral Palsy

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What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that affects movement, muscle tone or posture and is caused by damage to the motor control centers of the developing brain. This damage typically occurs during pregnancy, during childbirth or after birth, up to about 3 years of age but many factors are still unknown.

Some of the factors that may negatively affect brain development are:

Genetic mutations
Maternal or fetal infections
Fetal stroke
Traumatic head injury
Oxygen deprivation during difficult labor or delivery.

What are the symptoms of cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy affects body movement and muscle coordination. Each case is unique based on the patient’s type of injury and the timing of the injury to the developing brain. CP may affect one limb or side of the body, or the whole body. Some patients may have total paralysis, requiring constant care, while others with partial paralysis might require minimal assistance.

Symptoms appear during infancy or preschool years and may include one or more of the following:

Muscle contractions, too much or too little, or simultaneous contraction of all

Limb shaking, trembling or writhing as a result of contractions

Limb stiffness, possibly forcing limbs into painful, awkward positions

Impairment of balance, posture and coordination

Delays in reaching motor skills milestones

Difficulty with tasks such as walking, sitting, tying shoes or grasping objects

Delays in speech development or difficulty speaking

Intellectual impairment, seizures and vision or hearing impairment

Drooling or problems with swallowing, sucking or eating

What are the types of cerebral palsy?

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There are five major types of CP, based on mobility limitations and the body part(s) being affected: Hypotonic, spastic, athetoid, ataxic and mixed type.

Hypotonic CP. The infant or child with hypotonic cerebral palsy appears floppy. In early infancy, hypotonia can be easily seen by the inability of the infant to gain any head control when pulled by the arms to a sitting position (this symptom is often referred to as head lag).

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Cerebral palsy is also categorized by the location and type of movement problem and whether the limb is weakened (paresis) or paralyzed (plegia/plegic):

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How is cerebral palsy diagnosed?

Parents typically first notice a problem when their child fails to reach developmental milestones surrounding motor functions, such as holding his/her head up, rolling over, sitting, crawling, walking or picking up small objects. A physician suspecting CP will evaluate your child by direct observation, medical history and physical evaluation.

Your physician may also order tests to help make an accurate diagnosis, including a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a cranial ultrasound or an electroencephalogram (EEG).

How Physiotherapy can help for cerebral palsy?

Physical therapy (PT) focuses on basic mobility, such as rolling, sitting, standing, walking, climbing stairs, reaching or operating a wheelchair, and can help individuals:

Develop coordination
Normalize muscle tone and build strength
Improve posture and balance
Maintain or increase flexibility
Improve gait
Optimize physical functioning levels
Maximize independence
Minimize pain and discomfort

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