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Dyskinetic CP: Can You Do Anything About Uncontrollable Movements?

dyskinetic cp

After spastic cerebral palsy, dyskinetic CP is the second most prevalent type of CP.

It comprises up to 15% of all cases of cerebral palsy.

This article will explain the symptoms of dyskinetic cerebral palsy and the main characteristics that differentiate it from other forms of CP.

Let’s start!

Dyskinetic CP Symptoms

Unlike spastic cerebral palsy (which results from damage to the motor cortex) and ataxic cerebral palsy (which results from damage to the cerebellum), dyskinetic CP is caused by damage to the basal ganglia.

Damage to this area of the brain results in uncontrollable movements (dyskinesia).

Not all people with dyskinetic CP will have the same symptoms. There are two primary movement disorders characteristic of dyskinetic CP: dystonia and athetosis.


Dystonia is when involuntary muscle contractions cause repetitive, twisting movements and abnormal postures. It can affect all areas of the body.

Postures that are common in children with dystonic dyskinetic cerebral palsy include the inward-facing of the feet, outwards shifting of the wrist (ulnar deviation), and the inward curving of the lower back.

These postures can occur in short intervals or last for prolonged periods.

Dystonia is usually triggered when the individual actively tries to move.

Some forms of dystonia may only be triggered by certain movements.

Depending on the severity of dyskinetic cerebral palsy, dystonia can drastically impair motor functions or just result in very slow movements.

Dystonia is the most common and most noticeable movement disorder among individuals with dyskinetic CP.


Athetosis is characterized by uncontrollable fluctuations in muscle tone.

The muscles will switch off between the two extremes of stiff and floppy, which makes it appear as if the person is constantly moving.

Athetosis can affect the muscles in the mouth like the tongue and lips, which interferes with speaking, chewing, and swallowing.

Additionally, people with athetoid dyskinetic cerebral palsy often face difficulties maintaining their grip and may struggle using writing or kitchen utensils.

Generally, involuntary movements heighten when the individual is excited, upset, or anxious.

Because people with athetoid dyskinetic CP appear to be constantly moving, they often cannot sustain a stable posture or perform simple tasks.

These uncontrollable movements usually only cease when the individual is fully relaxed, distracted, or asleep.

Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy Treatment

girl with dyskinetic cerebral palsy at physical therapy

Like all types of cerebral palsy, dyskinetic CP is irreversible.

However, there are ways to help reduce the uncontrollable movements and associated conditions like pain.

Management of dyskinetic cerebral palsy usually requires a combination of various healing methods.


Depending on how severely your child’s quality of life is affected by their involuntary movements, management interventions can range from oral medications to injections to surgeries.

Oral baclofen and anticholinergic drugs like trihexyphenidyl are most commonly used to manage dyskinetic cerebral palsy; however, they generally have low effectiveness.

Intrathecal baclofen is when the drug is administered directly into the spinal canal. It allows for a lower dose of the muscle relaxant to enter the body and decreases the risk of side effects.

This review found that “many studies of intrathecal baclofen treatments have reported significant decreases in dystonia and subjective improvements in mobility, speech and communication, swallowing, head control, sleep, pain and mood, comfort,  and ease of care.”


Orthotic devices like compression garments and braces can help keep your body in place to prevent growth deformities due to uneven muscle pull and reduce the effects of fluctuating muscle tone.

Against spasticity, orthotics will resist against the contraction.

Against hypotonia, orthotics will help keep you upright and in proper alignment.

Rehabilitative Therapies

Additionally, various forms of therapy prove to be very effective in helping children with dyskinetic CP manage their symptoms.

Physical therapy will help promote overall mobility and posture through strengthening exercises and stretches.

Occupational therapy focuses mainly on developing fine motor skills through activities of daily living.

At occupational therapy, your child will also learn how to use adaptive tools to expand their functional abilities.

Speech therapy will help strengthen facial muscles. At speech therapy, your child will learn to improve their chewing, swallowing, and speaking skills.

Dyskinetic CP: Summary

dyskinetic cp management

When people think of cerebral palsy, they usually think of spastic cerebral palsy which is characterized by stiff, continuously contracted muscles.

Not only is dyskinetic cerebral palsy caused by damage to a different part of the brain, but it also is characterized by both extremes of very stiff and very relaxed muscle tone.

Because of these fluctuations in muscle tone, people with dyskinetic cerebral palsy experience involuntary movements.

Medications, orthotics, and various therapies can help reduce the effects of high muscle tone and strengthen underused muscles.

Hopefully, this article helped you better understand what dyskinetic CP is and how to manage it. Good luck!


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