Non-spastic cerebral palsy, also known as extrapyramidal cerebral palsy, accounts for around 20% of all cases of the disorder in the United States. There are three different types of non-spastic cerebral palsy; each type has differences as well as similarities.
What is Non-Spastic Cerebral Palsy?
Non-spastic cerebral palsy is a form of cerebral palsy marked by decreased muscle tone that tends to fluctuate. As mentioned earlier, there are three types of non-spastic cerebral palsy, and each type has its own set of characteristics. However, all forms of non-spastic cerebral palsy will have muscle tone variations, that will go from floppy to stiff.
Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy
Dyskinetic cerebral palsy is a form of non-spastic cerebral palsy that’s separated into two sub-groups: athetosis (see below for more information) and dystonia.
Symptoms of athetosis include:
- Repetitive, jerky movements
- Face grimacing from lack of facial muscle control
- Difficulties grasping and holding small objects
- Difficulties with eating and drinking
- Involuntary movements may be continuous unless the child is totally relaxed
- Involuntary movements typically disappear when the child is asleep
- Arms, feets, hands, and legs may have writhing movements
- Breathing difficulties
- Difficulties with lip and tongue movement
- Fluctuating muscle tones (from stiff to floppy)
Symptoms of dystonia include:
- Abnormal and awkward posture
- Movements that alternate from slow and painful to fast and rapid
- Involuntary movements that increase when the child is stressed or tired
- Slow, writhing-type movements
- Dystonia can affect only one part of the body or all over the body
Ataxic Cerebral Palsy
Ataxic cerebral palsy is another form of non-spastic cerebral palsy, and also the rarest type of the disorder, affecting around only 5% to 10% of all cases of the disorder.
Ataxic cerebral palsy comes with its own set of distinct characteristics and symptoms, which include:
- Unsteady movements
- Tremors (especially when reaching for things)
- Difficulties making quick movements
- Difficulties with precise finger movements
- Breathy sounds and monotone voice when speaking, known as “scanning” speech
- Slow eye movements
- In some cases, hearing and vision problems
Mixed Cerebral Palsy
Mixed cerebral palsy occurs when children with cerebral palsy have both spastic and non-spastic forms of the disorder. This means that children will exhibit the aforementioned non-spastic symptoms, as well as the spastic symptoms of cerebral palsy, which include:
- Muscle tightness
- Movement inhibition
- Limited stretching
- Poor muscle growth
- Abnormal walking with a widened gait
- Arms may tuck to the side, and hands may curl up
- Joint contracture
Children with mixed cerebral palsy will, unfortunately, have the complications associated with both types of the disorder, which makes treatment options tricky and more complicated. Generally, however, treatment options for mixed cerebral palsy will consist of the same treatment options listed below.
Treatment Options for Non-Spastic Cerebral Palsy
Physical therapy is generally always recommended for children with non-spastic cerebral palsy, regardless of how minor or severe the condition is. Physical therapy provides numerous benefits, including help with balance, coordination, muscle strength, physical endurance, health, and confidence.
Speech and language therapy is a treatment form recommended to help children with non-spastic cerebral palsy who need assistance with communicating effectively, a problem that can affect children with all forms of cerebral palsy. It can also help numerous conditions associated with cerebral palsy, such as aphasia, dysphagia, stuttering, and more.
Many children with non-spastic cerebral palsy benefit from medications that help control muscle problem and tremors. Your child’s physician will tell you about which medications may work best. Sometimes, in mild cases of non-spastic cerebral palsy, medication may not be needed at all.
In rare instances, especially when medication isn’t working, children with non-spastic cerebral palsy may need to undergo surgery, typically orthopedic surgery to help correct limb problems and deformities.
Non-Spastic Cerebral Palsy Prognosis
The long-term outlook for children with non-spastic cerebral palsy will depend on how severe the disorder is, any associated medical conditions, and how well treatment options work. Generally, many children with non-spastic cerebral palsy can live long, productive lives with the right treatment plan and care.