Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that affect movement and muscle tone or posture. It’s caused by damage that occurs to the immature, developing brain, most often before birth.

Signs and symptoms appear during infancy or preschool years. In general, cerebral palsy causes impaired movement associated with exaggerated reflexes, floppiness or spasticity of the limbs and trunk, unusual posture, involuntary movements, unsteady walking, or some combination of these.

Cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy types:-

main types, based on the movement involved:

  • Spastic cerebral palsy
  • Dyskinetic cerebral palsy
  • Ataxic cerebral palsy
  • Mixed cerebral palsy


Movement and coordination

  • Stiff muscles and exaggerated reflexes (spasticity), the most common movement disorder
  • Variations in muscle tone, such as being either too stiff or too floppy
  • Stiff muscles with normal reflexes (rigidity)
  • Lack of balance and muscle coordination (ataxia)
  • Tremors or jerky involuntary movements
  • Slow, writhing movements
  • Favoring one side of the body, such as only reaching with one hand or dragging a leg while crawling
  • Difficulty walking, such as walking on toes, a crouched gait, a scissors-like gait with knees crossing, a wide gait or an asymmetrical gait
  • Difficulty with fine motor skills, such as buttoning clothes or picking up utensils

Speech and eating

  • Delays in speech development
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Difficulty with sucking, chewing or eating
  • Excessive drooling or problems with swallowing


  • Delays in reaching motor skills milestones, such as sitting up or crawling
  • Learning difficulties
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Delayed growth, resulting in smaller size than would be expected

Other problems

Damage to the brain can contribute to other neurological problems, such as:

  • Seizures (epilepsy)
  • Difficulty hearing
  • Problems with vision and abnormal eye movements
  • Abnormal touch or pain sensations
  • Bladder and bowel problems, including constipation and urinary incontinence
  • Mental health conditions, such as emotional disorders and behavioral problems


Cerebral palsy is caused by abnormal brain development or damage to the developing brain. This usually happens before a child is born, but it can occur at birth or in early infancy. In many cases, the cause isn’t known. Many factors can lead to problems with brain development. Some include:

  • Gene mutations that result in genetic disorders or differences in brain development
  • Maternal infections that affect the developing fetus
  • Fetal stroke, a disruption of blood supply to the developing brain
  • Bleeding into the brain in the womb or as a newborn
  • Infant infections that cause inflammation in or around the brain
  • Traumatic head injury to an infant, such as from a motor vehicle accident, fall or physical abuse
  • Lack of oxygen to the brain related to difficult labor or delivery, although birth-related asphyxia is much less commonly a cause than historically thought.


Common types of treatment for cerebral palsy include

  • Physical therapy and rehabilitation. A child with cerebral palsy usually starts these therapies in the first few years of life or soon after being diagnosed. Physical therapy is one of the most important parts of treatment. It involves exercises and activities that can maintain or improve muscle strength, balance, and movement. A physical therapist helps the child learn skills such as sitting, walking, or using a wheelchair. Other types of therapy include:
    • Occupational therapy. This type of therapy helps a child learn to do everyday activities such as dressing and going to school.
    • Recreational therapy. Participating in art programs, cultural activities, and sports can help improve a child’s physical and intellectual skills.
    • Speech and language therapy. A speech therapist can help a child learn to speak more clearly, help with swallowing problems, and teach new ways to communicate, such as by using sign language or a special communication device.
  • Orthotic devices. Braces, splints, and casts can be placed on the affected limbs and can improve movement and balance. Other devices that can help with movement and posture include wheelchairs, rolling walkers, and powered scooters.
  • Assistive devices and technologies. These include special computer-based communication machines, Velcro-fastened shoes, or crutches, which can help make daily life easier.
  • Medication. Certain medications can relax stiff or overactive muscles and reduce abnormal movement. They may be taken by mouth, injected into affected muscles, or infused into the fluid surrounding the spinal cord through a pump implanted near the spinal cord. For children who have cerebral palsy and epilepsy (seizures), standard epileptic medications should be considered, but these medications may also have negative effects on the developing brain.
  • Surgery. A child may need surgery if symptoms are severe. For instance, surgery can lengthen stiff, tightly contracted muscles. A surgeon can also place arms or legs in better positions or correct or improve an abnormally curved spine. Sometimes, if other treatments have not worked, a surgeon can cut certain nerves to treat abnormal, spastic movements. Before conducting surgery, it is important for a health care provider to assess the procedure’s benefits by carefully analyzing biomechanics of the joints and muscles.


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