What are the main types of cerebral palsy?

There are different types of cerebral palsy. Each one is a result of damage to a specific part of the brain. How a child is affected by the condition depends on what type they have, and the severity.

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(Graphic taken from World CP Day TBC permission)

Spastic Cerebral Palsy

This is the most common type of cerebral palsy. (Around 91% of people have this type.) Spastic means the affected muscles are stiffer than normal. It may only be present in one part of the body such as an arm or a leg, or half of the body, or one side of the body.  How stiff the muscle is will vary from person to person. As a result, limb movements might be stiff or jerky, and if muscles become permanently shortened they can become contracted, or fixed and difficult to move. One of the primary goals of physiotherapy is to stop this from happening.

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  • Hemiplegia means just one side of the body is affected. Mostly an arm, or an arm and a leg.
  • Diplegia is where the legs are more affected than the arms.
  • Quadriplegia (also called four limb/total body involvement) is where both arms and legs are affected. Sometimes because of the severity of the damage a child may also suffer learning difficulties, have severe mobility problems and suffer epileptic seizures.
* Source: Journal of Public Health March 2006 Vol. 28, No. 2 pp148-156. UKCP: A collaborative network of cerebral palsy registers in the United Kingdom.

Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy

Someone with Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy might have difficulty staying in one position. Or, they might find it difficult to use their arms or hands precisely in the way they would like.  In this type of cerebral palsy the muscle tone can suddenly change from tense to relaxed causing uncontrolled involuntary movements, or muscle spasms. It is sometimes referred to as Athetoid when it affects the limbs, and Dyskinetic when it refers to the trunk.

Ataxic Cerebral Palsy

This is the least common type of cerebral palsy. Movement is often jerky and balance can be poor. Children often have difficulty with the fine control of movement and may have a tremor that increases on activity. The individual's muscle tone is usually low (slightly floppy) and this can make sustaining upright postures such as sitting or standing difficult.

Mixed types

Mixed types of CP have symptoms that don’t match any one type. A person with mixed CP may have some muscles that are too tight and others that are too relaxed.

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