What is cerebral palsy?
Cerebral palsy is damage to the developing brain, that affects physical movement, which occurs before the age of two. If brain damage occurs after this age, it is referred to as traumatic brain injury (TBI) or acquired brain injury (ABI). Cerebral palsy is a result of hypoxia (reduced blood supply to the brain) or a haemorrhage (a bleed in the brain).
The brain is made up of nerve cells, and these send messages to each other, the central nervous system, and the muscles, telling them to move. Did you know there are over 100 billion nerve cells in the brain, with over 100 trillion connections? Cerebral palsy varies hugely among individuals, and the type and severity of CP depends on the size of the brain damage, and the location. Because of this, no two people with CP are the same, even if they have the same type of CP.
Types of cerebral palsy
Cerebral palsy is split up into different types, depending on the part of the brain affected, and the physical movement patterns this causes. The following terms describe which part of the body CP affects.
Quadriplegic CP: affects all four limbs, in any way.
Diplegic CP: affects two limbs, usually both legs
Monoplegic CP: affects one limb
Hemiplegic CP: affects one side of the body and is common after a haemorrhage (bleed on the brain) or a stroke at birth.
Asymmetrical cerebral palsy: affects movement differently on each side of the body.
As well as this diagnosis, your child is also likely to have a movement part of the diagnosis, describing how that part of the body is affected. The following terms may be used:
● Spasticity: muscle stiffness, or a ‘catch’ when a joint is moved quickly. Clonus is a type of spasticity in the ankle. Spasticity is also common in the hamstrings, biceps and hip adductor muscles, but can occur anywhere.
● Ataxia: reduced co-ordination, and a lack of control or ‘smoothness’ when carrying out movements. This can lead to jerky and shaky actions.
● Dystonia: large, involuntary movements of the joints and limbs.
● Hypertonia or high muscle tone: an increased state of contraction of the muscles, leading to stiffness when moving a joint through its range of movement.
● Hypotonia or low muscle tone: reduced state of contraction of the muscle, leading to flaccid and floppy joints. This is common with hypermobility (increased flexibility at a joint).
Your child may have several terms included in their diagnosis, or several different diagnoses from different professionals. We are pleased to offer free phone consultations to discuss your child’s diagnosis and any concerns you may have.
To find out how we can help your CP superhero, contact us.