Is it possible for cerebral palsy to affect only the left side of the body?
The brain is split into 2 hemispheres. The right hemisphere controls movement on the left side of the body and the left hemisphere controls movement on the right.
Therefore, motor impairments on the left side of the body are caused by damage to the right side of the brain, specifically the motor cortex.
To help you understand left side motor impairments due to cerebral palsy, this article will go over their causes, symptoms, and management.
What Kind of Cerebral Palsy Affects the Left Side?
There are 4 main types of cerebral palsy:
Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common type of cerebral palsy. Up to 80% of people with cerebral palsy have this type of CP.
While ataxic, dyskinetic, and mixed cerebral palsy typically affect coordination, balance, and muscle throughout the entire body, spastic cerebral palsy might only affect certain areas of the body.
Spastic CP is typically differentiated by which areas of the body it affects.
Types of spastic cerebral palsy include:
- Spastic monoplegia (only affects 1 limb)
- Spastic diplegia (affects both sides of the body equally; usually the legs are more affected than the arms)
- Spastic quadriplegia (affects the entire body)
- Spastic hemiplegia (affects only one side of the body)
Therefore, cerebral palsy that solely affects the left side of the body is called spastic hemiplegia.
Symptoms of Left Side Cerebral Palsy
Spastic hemiplegia can affect all sorts of functions that interfere with proper growth and development.
Commonly experienced symptoms of cerebral palsy on the left side of the body include:
- Stiff movements
- Abnormal walking pattern
- High muscle tone
- Asymmetric growth
- Unstable trunk control (leaning to one side)
- Poor fine motor skills in the affected hand
Because only the left side experiences spasticity (involuntary muscle contractions), individuals with this type of cerebral palsy may learn to become overly dependent on their non-affected side.
Management of Spastic Hemiplegia
To prevent complete neglect of their affected side (developmental disregard), it’s essential for people with spastic hemiplegia to manage their symptoms and continuously practice using both sides of their body together.
Let’s go over how to manage left-side motor impairments:
The goal of physical therapy is to improve your movements through exercise.
Physical therapy for left-side motor impairments can involve stretching tight muscles, strengthening underused muscles, and practicing new movement patterns.
Individuals will work on promoting neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to rewire itself) by repetitively practicing exercises with their left side.
Repetitive stimulation will signal to the brain that there’s a demand for left-side movements.
With enough practice, the brain can adjust its neural circuitry to rewire functions affected by cerebral palsy to healthier areas of the brain.
Occupational therapy will help individuals with left-side spastic hemiplegia become more independent by practicing everyday activities like using silverware, writing, and brushing your teeth.
These tasks help promote fine motor skills (skills that require more precision and coordination).
An occupational therapist will also assess whether adaptive equipment like reachers or walking aids can help improve your mobility.
Medications like Baclofen and Botox can help temporarily reduce spasticity.
They help block signals that cause muscles to contract.
Botox must be injected into the spastic muscle while baclofen can be taken orally, injected, or through an intrathecal pump. However, pills and intrathecal pumps will administer the muscle relaxant throughout the entire body, which is unnecessary for individuals who are only affected on one side.
Therefore, injections are the most ideal method for administering any sort of spasticity-reducing drug.
Baclofen must be taken regularly because its effects only last several hours. In contrast, the effects of Botox typically last 3-6 months.
Medications will not permanently reduce spasticity, so it’s essential for individuals to take advantage of their reduced muscle tone and practice moving their affected side as much as possible to promote neuroplasticity.
Orthotics support proper musculoskeletal alignment.
Because CP occurs in early childhood, spastic hemiplegia can drastically affect the way a child’s body develops.
Spasticity on one side of the body can restrict normal growth and cause poor posture due to uneven muscle strain.
Wearing orthotics will help hold limbs in place and gently stretch spastic muscles.
Because of it’s invasive and costly nature, surgery will only be recommended if all other forms of spasticity management prove ineffective.
Surgery for spastic hemiplegia generally involves manually lengthening and realigning the muscles or selectively cutting the nerve roots for a specific muscle altogether.
Left Side Cerebral Palsy: Key Points
Left side motor impairments in individuals with cerebral palsy are caused by damage to the right hemisphere of the brain.
Because of movements on the right side of the body are unaffected, children may become overly dependent on their right side and develop nonuse of their left side.
It’s essential for children to practice using both sides of their bodies in order to develop bilateral coordination and perform everyday activities with ease.
By consistently practicing left-side movements and managing spasticity, individuals with spastic hemiplegia can stimulate neural adaptations in the brain and boost mobility on their affected side.
Featured image: ©iStock.com/KatarzynaBialasiewicz