Cerebral palsy (CP) is a form of brain damage that affects thousands of newborn children around the world every year. With no definitive cure known as of yet, people who have CP tend to suffer its effects for their entire lives. It is caused by damage to the motor control centers inside the brain. There are several types of CP that occur during pregnancy, childbirth and up to three years of age. Among them is spastic cerebral palsy. It is the most common form and contributes to over seventy percent of CP cases.
Spastic cerebral palsy causes the muscles to stiffen; making movement difficult. During normal muscle functioning, muscles work in pairs. Each has two sets of nerve pathways; pathways that route signals to the brain and pathways that receive the signal. Normally, both work in tandem with each other to ensure free movement.
In the case of a person with spastic CP, both sets of nerves become active together. This floods the nervous system with messages, which causes a traffic jam of signals to be created. Eventual tenseness in the muscles is created, which in turn causes the muscles to malfunction. The muscles in the areas affected will become stiff and when they are forced to stretch, they may cause sudden, jerky movements.
Muscle involvement may differ from person to person, although the muscles of the legs and arms seem to be the most affected body parts of an individual suffering from spastic CP. There are a few variations of this disorder. One is spastic diplegia. It is a type of spastic cerebral palsy where the leg muscles are severely affected. So much so that the legs turn in and cross at the knees. With spastic diplegia, a person can experience stiffness of their legs when they try to walk.
Another form is spastic hemiplegia. It involves half of each limb being severely affected. This type is generally diagnosed when a physician examines an infant for hand preference. An infant less than one year of age does not show any type of hand preference. If an infant is affected with spastic hemiplegia, however, the child will show hand preference on the affected side of the body.
Therapists normally use muscle-relaxing substances like botulism toxins during treatment for the spastic form of cerebral palsy. It is injected into a certain group of muscles being prepared for surgery or physical therapy. If further mobility and flexibility are still not achieved during a particular therapy session, then decompression of a patient’s spinal cord and nerves will need to be performed in order to decrease the transmission of nerve impulses on particular muscles; thereby relaxing them. Sometimes, orthopedic devices are used to help keep the limbs in their proper position and enhance movement.
As time wears on, spastic CP can cause debilitating symptoms and disability can result from not receiving treatment. Loss of bladder control, uncontrollable shaking and hand contraction can be permanent. Depending on the level of function and severity of the condition, treatment for the spastic form of cerebral palsy can vary from person to person.