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Cerebral Palsy and Right-Side Motor Impairments: Understanding Spastic Hemiplegia

cerebral palsy right side of body

Cerebral palsy that only affects the right side of the body can interfere with full-body functions like balance, bilateral coordination, and walking.

This article will help you understand what causes one-sided motor impairments and the best ways to optimize your mobility.

Understanding Cerebral Palsy and Right-Side Motor Impairments

The brain consists of 2 hemispheres. When damage occurs in only one side of the motor cortex, individuals experience motor impairments on the opposite side of the body.

Therefore, motor impairments on the right side of the body are caused by damage to the left hemisphere of the brain.

There are 4 primary types of cerebral palsy:

  1. Spastic
  2. Dyskinetic
  3. Ataxic
  4. Mixed

Nearly 80% of all cerebral palsy cases are spastic, making it by far the most common type of CP.

One characteristic that makes spastic CP unique is that it doesn’t always affect the entire body. Depending on the location of the brain damage, it may only affect certain areas of the body.

what type of cerebral palsy causes right side impairments

Types of spastic cerebral palsy include:

  • Spastic diplegia (this type of CP affects both sides of the body equally; typically, it affects the legs more than the arms)
  • Spastic hemiplegia (this type of CP affects only one side of the body)
  • Spastic quadriplegia (this type of CP affects the entire body; it is associated with greater amounts of brain damage)
  • Spastic monoplegia (this type of CP affects only 1 limb; usually an arm rather than a leg)

Therefore, cerebral palsy that causes motor impairments on the right side of the body is called right-side spastic hemiplegia.

Symptoms of Right-Side Cerebral Palsy

Because hemiplegia only affects one side of the body, the other side can function normally.

However, one-sided motor impairments can interfere with an individual’s ability to perform functions that require the entire body.

Symptoms of right-side spastic hemiplegia include:

  • Stiff movements (due to involuntary muscle contractions (spasticity))
  • Difficulties performing fine motor skills like writing and using silverware (due to spasticity in the fingers)
  • Abnormal gait (due to poor balance and high muscle tone)
  • Unstable trunk control
  • Asymmetric growth (due to uneven muscle tension)
  • Distortions (due to uneven muscle tension and strain on the joints)

Right-Side Spastic Hemiplegia Management

One of the major concerns surrounding right-side spastic hemiplegia is neglecting to use the left side of their body (developmental disregard).

While it is completely normal for a child to have a dominant side, becoming overly dependent on one side of the body can result in poor bilateral coordination and make tasks much more difficult.

To avoid developmental disregard, individuals with right-side spastic hemiplegia must properly continuously practice using their weaker side.

Management for right-side cerebral palsy can include:

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy will help boost mobility on your right-side through repetitive exercise.

PT for right-side motor impairments typically involves:

  • stretching tight muscles
  • strengthening underused muscles
  • practicing new movement patterns to replace those affected by damage to the brain

Neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to rewire itself) is essential for improving right-side motor impairments. The best way to promote it is through repetition.

Repetitive stimulation will help the brain understand that there is a demand for right-sided movements.

With massed practice, the brain can reassign functions affected by cerebral palsy to healthier areas of the brain.

Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy

Constraint-induced movement therapy focuses on promoting use of the non-dominant arm by discouraging use of the dominant arm.

The dominant arm will be restrained by wearing a glove, mitt, or orthotic device.

Then, the non-dominant arm will undergo intensive training. The goal is to promote neuroplasticity through repetitive stimulation.

Occupational Therapy

managing right side cerebral palsy

©iStock.com/Jovanmandic

Occupational therapy will help individuals with right-side spastic hemiplegia become more independent by practicing activities of daily living like using silverware, getting dressed, and brushing teeth.

These tasks help develop precision and coordination.

Occupational therapists can also assess whether your child will benefit from using adaptive equipment and teach them how to use it to maximize their mobility.

Medications

Medications like Baclofen and Botox can help temporarily reduce spasticity. They help block signals that cause muscle contractions.

Baclofen must be taken regularly because its effects only last several hours. On the other hand, Botox injections typically provide 3-6 months of spasticity relief.

Because medications will not permanently relieve spasticity, it’s crucial to take advantage of the period reduced muscle tone and repetitively practice right-side movements to promote neuroplasticity.

Orthotics

Orthotics like braces, casts, splints, and compression garments help support proper musculoskeletal alignment.

Because CP occurs in early childhood, high muscle tone of the right side of the body can restrict growth or cause body distortions.

Wearing orthotics will help support the positioning of your musculoskeletal system and subtly combat further muscle tightening.

Surgery

Surgery is usually only recommended when all other forms of spasticity management fail.

The most common types of surgeries performed for right-side spastic hemiplegia involve manual lengthening and realignment of the muscles or creating incisions at specific nerve roots to denervate hyperactive contraction.

Right Side Cerebral Palsy: Key Points

Right- side motor impairments in individuals with cerebral palsy are caused by damage to the left hemisphere of the brain.

It’s essential for children to practice using their weaker side to prevent right-side neglect and develop bilateral coordination skills.

By managing spasticity and consistently training the right side of the body, individuals with right-side spastic hemiplegia can stimulate neural adaptations in the brain and boost their overall mobility.

Featured image: ©iStock.com/wavebreakmedia

Keep It Going: See Fun Ways to Recover from Cerebral Palsy

Finally! There’s a recovery device for CP that’s actually fun to use. See how Flint Rehab’s tools are helping with CP recovery:

“The FitMi and MusicGlove have done wonders for my son with hemiparesis from cerebral palsy and stroke. It motivates him to do his exercises. It does not seem like therapy for him since it is fun. It monitors his progress so it is a great reinforcement for him. Music is a motivator for him. He has been using it on his arm and we will try the leg exercises soon.”

FitMi works by motivating high repetition of therapeutic exercises while playing an engaging game. This gamification has been particularly great for motivating individuals with cerebral palsy to recover.

To see how FitMi works, click here »