Cerebral palsy refers to a group of permanent movement disorders that are often seen in early childhood. Cerebral palsy is usually caused by damage to parts of the brain or due to abnormal development. This affects the balance, movement, and posture of the patient. Most cerebral palsy patients occur during pregnancy or during or after birth. While most causes of cerebral palsy are unknown, the risk factors include preterm birth, twin pregnancies, infections during pregnancy (such as rubella or toxoplasmosis), difficult delivery, exposure to methylmercury, trauma to the head during early years, and more.
Approximately 2 percent of cases have been attributed to an inherited genetic cause. Cerebral palsy can be generally classified into various sub-types such as spastic cerebral palsy (stiff muscles), ataxic cerebral palsy (poor coordination), and athetoid cerebral palsy (writhing movements). The diagnosis of cerebral palsy is based on the observation of the child’s development. Medical imaging and blood tests can be beneficial to help rule out other causes. Some cases of cerebral palsy can be preventable by recommending immunization to mother and preventing head injuries in children.
While there is no cure for cerebral palsy, medications and supportive treatments can be greatly beneficial. Efforts include speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy. Medications like botulinum toxin, diazepam, and baclofen can help reduce spasticity and relax muscles. Surgery can be performed to cut excessively active nerves and to help lengthen muscles. There are some cases where patients can live near normal lives with the appropriate treatment. Cerebral palsy is the commonest movement disorder in children with about 2.1 per 1,000 live births.
Symptom #1: Stiff Muscles
Stiff muscles or spasticity occurs when there is a combination of increased tendon reflex activity, paralysis, and hypertonia. It refers to unusually tight or stiff muscles. It can result due to the loss of motor neuron inhibition which leads to excessive muscle contraction and hyperreflexia. Stiff muscles or spasticity are often seen in spastic cerebral palsy.
In mild to moderate spastic muscles, exercise should be recommended as the main management with help from an accredited occupational, physical, or exercise therapist. Additional interventions may include serial casting, icing, sustained stretching, and more.