Different types of cerebral palsy are caused by damage to different parts of the brain.
However, even amongst people with the same type of cerebral palsy, there will be variations.
Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term, meaning that it describes a spectrum of various movement disorders.
This article will help you differentiate between the four types of cerebral palsy.
Different Types of Cerebral Palsy
There 4 main types of cerebral palsy are spastic, dyskinetic, ataxic, and mixed.
Depending on the amount of damage to the brain, symptoms can range from mild to severe and affect various areas of the body.
1. Spastic Cerebral Palsy
It’s caused by damage to the motor cortex, the part of the brain responsible for controlling and planning voluntary movements.
Spastic cerebral palsy is characterized by spasticity, which is when your muscles continuously and involuntarily contract.
Constantly tight muscles make it difficult to move and will result in stiff or exaggerated movements.
Spastic cerebral palsy can be further differentiated by the limbs affected:
- Spastic Diplegia is when the motor impairment is primarily in the legs.
- Spastic Hemiplegia is when a person experiences motor impairment in one side of their body, meaning only on the right or left side.
- Spastic Quadriplegia is when motor impairments affect the entire body. This can include the facial muscles, which complicates eating, swallowing, and speaking. Generally, spastic quadriplegia is the most severe and caused by large amounts of damage to the brain.
- Spastic Monoplegia is when just one limb (usually an arm rather than a leg) is affected.
2. Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy
It’s caused by damage to the basal ganglia and is primarily characterized by uncontrollable movements.
There are two main types of disordered movement patterns people with dyskinetic cerebral palsy may experience: athetosis and dystonia.
Athetosis is characterized by uncontrollable fluctuations in muscle tone. The muscles fluctuate between flaccid and spastic, which gives off the appearance of continuous movement.
Dystonia is when the muscle contractions cause repetitive twisting movements.
3. Ataxic Cerebral Palsy
Ataxic cerebral palsy is the least common type of cerebral palsy.
It’s a result of damage to the cerebellum, which is responsible for regulating balance, coordination, and fine-motor skills.
Poor balance may be observed through frequent falls or walking with the legs far apart for extra stability.
Poor coordination will make it difficult to perform tasks that require speed or precision.
People with ataxic cerebral palsy may also have hypotonicity (low muscle tone).
When you have low muscle tone, the muscles are loose and relaxed. This makes it difficult to control your movements and requires the body to expend more energy to move or to even maintain an unsupported posture, resulting in low activity tolerance.
4. Mixed Cerebral Palsy
Mixed cerebral palsy is caused by damage to multiple areas of the brain.
Individuals with mixed CP will usually experience symptoms of two different types of cerebral palsy; however, it’s also possible (although much rarer) to experience symptoms of all three.
The most common type of mixed cerebral palsy is spastic-dyskinetic.
Managing Different Types of Cerebral Palsy
Because every case of cerebral palsy is different, the techniques used to manage it will vary from person to person.
Many children see a wide variety of medical professionals from diverse specialties (like physical therapy, occupational therapy, pediatrics, orthopedics, behavior therapy, and speech-language pathology) to manage their CP.
Because cerebral palsy is a motor disorder, most patients will benefit from physical therapy. There, they will work on strengthening underused muscles, lengthening spastic muscles, fixing abnormal walking patterns, and improving overall movement and posture.
Medications like Botox or baclofen are often used to relax tight muscles and wearing braces can help promote proper form.
Cerebral palsy management is just as unique as the motor impairment itself. No two people will experience the same symptoms exactly alike.