Cerebral palsy is a congenital disorder that affects movement, posture, and muscle tone. It often occurs as the result of abnormal brain development or brain trauma. Depending on the type of cerebral palsy, the effects and severity of the condition will vary.
March is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month, so it’s essential that we begin to understand this disorder and the way that it affects people. About five hundred thousand children and adults in the United States experience at least one symptom.
A better understanding of CP allows us to spread awareness and takes steps toward support, research, and unity.
Spastic Cerebral Palsy
This is the most common type of CP, and it affects about 80 percent of people with cerebral palsy. Spastic CP shows up as increased muscle tone resulting in stiffness of specific body parts. It can be broken into three categories depending on the area of the body affected.
- Spastic diplegia/diparesis: Mainly manifests as stiffness in the legs. Due to hip and leg muscle tightness, legs can turn inward, knees can cross (scissoring), or legs can pull together, making walking difficult.
- Spastic hemiplegia/hemiparesis: This subset affects only one side of the body, usually affecting the arms more than the legs.
- Spastic quadriplegia/quadriparesis: This is the most severe form of spastic cerebral palsy, as it affects all four limbs as well as the individual’s torso and face. Spastic quadriparesis usually affects one’s ability to walk and may be accompanied by intellectual disabilities. This form of CP may also bring seizures and issues with hearing, vision, and speech.
Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy
People with dyskinetic CP have trouble walking or sitting because it affects their ability to control their hands, arms, feet, and legs. Movements may be slow and wriggling or jerky. The tongue and face may be affected as well, making it difficult to suck, swallow, and talk. A person’s muscle tone can vary from too tight to too loose from day to day or even within a single day.
Ataxic Cerebral Palsy
For those with ataxic cerebral palsy, balance and coordination may be more difficult, potentially resulting in unsteadiness while walking. Making quick or controlled movements can be difficult to execute. An individual with ataxic CP may experience difficulties trying to control their arms or hands when reaching for objects or using fine motor functions.
Mixed Cerebral Palsy
Simply put, mixed CP occurs when individuals experience symptoms of more than one type of CP. The most common type of mixed cerebral palsy is spastic dyskinetic CP.
Regardless of the type of CP, a common symptom that people with this disorder experience are issues controlling their bodies. Certain therapies, such as physical, occupational, speech, and language therapies, can be implemented to assist in gaining better control of bodily functions. Additionally, the use of adaptive equipment such as wheelchairs, lifts, and gait trainers can be helpful for people with CP.
To help with gait training as well as activating thousands of muscles simultaneously, Chariot Innovations has created the MiraColt hippotherapy simulator to help those with CP achieve greater stability, strength, and control of their bodies without the need for a live horse. Educating yourself and others about CP is a great way to celebrate cerebral palsy awareness month in March as well as all other months. This month, wear green to show your support and, when possible, use the hashtag “#GoGreen4CP” on your online posts.