No products in the cart.

The Main Distinctions Between Different Types of Cerebral Palsy

understanding the 3 different types of cerebral palsy

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

symptoms of different types of cerebral palsy

Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common type of cerebral palsy. It makes up about 80% of all cases of 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

dyskinetic cp is one of the three different types of cerebral palsy

Dyskinetic cerebral palsy occurs in up to 15% of all cerebral palsy cases, making it the second most diagnosed type of 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

child with ataxic cp falling due to poor balance

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

learning how to manage different types of cp

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.

Keep It Going: Download the Free Ebook “Tips for Managing Cerebral Palsy”

illustration of cerebral palsy tips ebook with example pages

Get our free, illustrated ebook titled “Helpful Tips for Managing Cerebral Palsy” by signing up below!

You’ll also receive our weekly Monday newsletter that contains 5 articles on cerebral palsy education.

We will never sell your email address, and we never spam. That we promise.

You’re on a Roll: Discover a home exercise program for CP that’s actually fun to do!

adult with cerebral palsy smiling while using FitMi home therapy

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 the button below:

5 stars

More Ways to Recover with Flint Rehab:

Free CP Tips Ebook

illustration of cerebral palsy tips ebook with example pages

Discover Award-Winning Neurorehab Tools