Spastic cerebral palsy, sometimes referred to as bilateral spasticity, is the most common form of the disorder, affecting around 70% to 80% of all people diagnosed. This form of cerebral palsy mainly affects the muscle groups, but can create associated disorders as well.
Spastic cerebral palsy is a condition caused by brain damage, either before or during birth, or within the first years of a child’s life. It’s normally more evident after the first year or so, as the symptoms become more prominent. It’s a developmental disorder that affects the normal motor function development. The impaired motor function makes it difficult for children to pick up small objects.
According to the St. Louis Children’s Hospital, muscles need enough tone in them to maintain correct posture, to help someone walk correctly, and to maintain speed and flexibility. Sensory nerve fibers, via the spinal cord and nerves, interact with the muscles and help control how they move.
For someone with spastic cerebral palsy, brain damage tends to affect muscle control movement, mainly in the arms and legs. In turn, this influences the spinal cord and nerves’ reactions to muscle control, making them stiff, tense, and spastic. The faster someone moves, the more stiff the muscles may seem.
Children born with spastic cerebral don’t have any extremities deformities at birth, but over time it may develop, due to muscle spasticity and stretching limitations.
Spastic cerebral palsy may be be associated with quadriplegic, diplegic, or hemiplegic cerebral palsy.
Spastic Cerebral Palsy Symptoms
Spastic cerebral palsy is characterized by hypertonia, meaning increased muscle tone. The increased muscle tone leads to stiff, sometimes painful limbs. Other symptoms may include:
- Involuntary limb movement
- Continuous muscle contractions
- Abnormal walking, marked by knees crossing or touching each other
- Joint contracture
- Muscle weakness
- Arms and/or hands tucked in towards the side of the body
- Limite stretching abilities
- Flexion at the elbows, wrists, and fingers
These symptoms can make it difficult for those with spastic cerebral palsy to get dressed, brush their teeth, use the bathroom, and take a shower without assistance. Yet, the limitations on daily tasks will depend on how severe the disorder is. Children with mild cases of spastic CP may not need any help but may still have slight difficulties.
If both legs are affected, children may also have difficulties in transferring from one position to the next, standing and sitting upright, walking, and running.
Children with spastic cerebral palsy may also develop brain and nervous system symptoms, which can include:
- Speech problems (slurred speech and slow oral movement)
- Hearing problems
- Vision problems
- Learning disabilities
Additional symptoms may include:
- Breathing irregularities
- Difficulties with chewing and swallowing
- Hoarse or tight-sounding voice
Treatment Options for Spastic Cerebral Palsy
Although there’s no cure for any form of cerebral palsy, there are a number of treatment options available to help control the symptoms, including:
- Anti-seizure medications
- Physical, language, behavioral, and occupational therapy
- Baclofen pump (to help control muscle spasms and jerky movements)
- Spinal cord surgery (to reduce spasticity)
- Constraint-induced therapy (CIT)
- Muscle-release operation procedure
- Tendon-lengthening operation procedure
- Communication boards
Keep in mind that treatment options will depend on the age of the child, how severe the symptoms are, and any associated disorders. Most parents will work with a team of medical experts to help carry the best treatments for the child, including therapists, physicians, dietitians, and neurologists.
Spastic Cerebral Palsy Prognosis
Again, there is no cure for spastic cerebral palsy, but with the proper treatment, children can grow up and thrive as adults. It’s important, however, to start a treatment plan as early as possible in order for the child to have the best chances not only as an adult, but as they make their way through childhood and adolescence.