Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term used to classify conditions that impair motor coordination caused by brain damage. Cerebral palsy is caused by brain damage occurring before, during, or after birth. Any brain damage inflicted up until approximately the age of three can result in cerebral palsy. The part of the brain that is damaged is the determining factor on how the condition affects the patient.

type of cerebral palsy, called spastic cerebral palsy, occurs when the brain damage occurs in the cerebral cortex, the outer layer of the brain. Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common form of cerebral palsy, affecting 70 to 80 percent of patients. Spastic cerebral palsy has varying forms depending on the areas of the body it affects, whether its one side of the body or just the legs.

Spastic cerebral palsy refers to the increased tone, or tension, in a muscle. Normal muscles work in pairs. When one group contracts the other group relaxes, allowing free movement in the desired direction. Due to complications in brain-to-nerve-to-muscle communication, the normal ebb and flow of muscle tension is disrupted. Muscles affected by spastic cerebral palsy become active together and block effective movement. This causes the muscles in spastic cerebral palsy patients to be constantly tense, or spastic. Spastic cerebral palsy patients may have mild cases that affect only a few movements, or severe cases that can affect the whole body. Although spastic cerebral palsy is not thought to be a progressive disorder, as brain damage does not get worse over time, spasticity in muscles can increase over time. This increased muscle tone and stiffness in spastic cerebral palsy can limit the range of movement in the joints. The effects of spastic cerebral palsy may increase with anxiety or exerted effort, leading to excessive fatigue.

Spastic cerebral palsy negatively affects the patient’s muscles and joints of the extremities, causing abnormal movements, and can disrupt normal growth in children. Spastic cerebral palsy can inhibit several things such as normal motions in body movement, longitudinal muscle growth, and protein synthesis in muscle cells. Spastic cerebral palsy also limits stretching of muscles in daily activities and causes the development of muscle and joint deformities. Children born with spastic cerebral palsy do not have deformities of the extremities at birth but develop them over time due to joint contractures.

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