What It Is

Cerebral Palsy, CP for short, refers to a group of disorders that affect different motor functions resulting in physical disabilities limiting body movement and muscle coordination.  CP is non-progressive, which means the physical disabilities will not get worse over time.  While CP affects muscle control and body movement, the root of the problem is not with the muscles or nerves themselves.  Instead, the cause is the result of damage to one or more areas of the brain that can occur during development, from birth and even into early childhood as a result of brain trauma, low oxygen supply, or brain infections like such as bacterial meningitis or viral encephalitis.  


The first signs of CP will often become present before the child is three years old and can range in severity, however, these symptoms can be present in diseases other than CP as well. 

A few common symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty holding up their own head
  • Rigid or twisted limbs and body
  • Loose or flaccid limbs and body
  • Difficulty crawling in straight directions

Types of Cerebral Palsy:

  • Spastic:  The most common type of CP that affects about 80% of people with CP.  Depending on what parts of the body are affected, spastic CP can be described differently.  
    • Spastic Diplegia/Diparesis:  This is when there is an abnormality of or increase in muscle tone in which one or more extremities (more often the legs than the arms) is held in a rigid or tight posture.  People with this form of CP can have trouble walking without support as the tightness causes their legs to stiffen, turn inward, and even cross at the knees (known as scissoring).
    • Spastic Hemiplegia/Hemiparesis:  This type affects only one side of body and is more prevalent in the arms than the legs.
    • Spastic Quadriplegia/Quadriparesis:  The most severe form of spastic CP which affect all four limbs as well as the other parts of the body.  
  • Dyskinetic:  This includes athetoid CP, choreoathetoid CP, and dystonic CP.  It is most often associated with abnormal, uncontrollable, writhing movements of the arms and/or leg.  People with these forms of CP may experience a variance in muscle tone and from too tight and rigid to too loose and floppy.  
  • Ataxic:  This type of CP is characterized by poor balance when they try to walk unsupported or with quick movements like writing or reaching for small objects.  

Many children with CP, especially the more severe cases, will experience other issues like seizures, problems with vision, hearing and/or speech, and learning disabilities.  

However, people with more mild cases of CP may require no assistance and can live very independent lives.  

Treatments & Therapies

While there is currently no cure for the brain damage that results in CP, there are treatments that can improve capabilities and quality of life.  Early intervention is critical as treatments may include casting and braces to prevent further loss of limb function, speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, the use of augmentative communication devices, the use of medications to control seizures, and other medications to control muscle spasms.  Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has also been used to treat spasticity.

  • The description of this disease is provided courtesy of the NIH, and other sources.
  • The information provided on this web site should NOT be used as a substitute for seeking professional medical diagnosis, treatment or care. You should not rely on any information in these pages to replace consultations with qualified health professionals.