Cerebral palsy is the most common form of congenital disorders in the entire country. One reason for this is that essentially every baby is at risk when they go through the birthing process. On top of that, there are many different types of cerebral palsy as well. However, spastic cerebral palsy is the most common form. It’s characterized by stiff muscles and movements that seem jerky and hindered.
What Causes Spasticity?
When a child is diagnosed with spastic cerebral palsy, it is because damage has been done to their motor cortex. It either occurred during the birth or sometime while the baby was in the womb. The motor cortex is the area in the brain in charge of all the body’s movements.
Symptoms of Spastic Cerebral Palsy
Any muscle group in the body can be affected by spastic cerebral palsy. While this can mean different symptoms show up in different people there are some common patterns worth noting.
Effects on the Upper Body
If this type of cerebral palsy affects both of a person’s arms, it can result in constant flexion of the elbow, wrist and/or fingers. In the case of the elbow and wrist, this would mean they would remain constantly bent. With flexion in the fingers, they would be making a fist involuntarily.
As you might expect, this means that many people have a difficult time with tasks involving their arms and hands because of spasticity.
This can include things like:
- Getting dressed
- Eating or drinking
- Using the bathroom
- Manipulating objects
Another problem most of us may not think about is how not having control of one’s arms can affect one’s ability to walk. Whether you know it or not, you use your arms to balance yourself during every step you take. Even standing can be difficult if spasticity is an issue.
Effects on the Lower Body
However, spastic cerebral palsy can have a number of other effects on the lower body, aside from just making walking and standing tough.
If it is affecting one or both legs, this disability can lead to:
- Adduction of the thighs, where they are pulled together and “scissor” around the knees
- Flexion of the hip, causing the leg to lift up when lying down or, when standing, the body to lean forward
- Flexion at the knees, which can affect a person’s ability to stand properly and comfortably
- Hyper-extending the big toe—this is where the foot’s posture is compromised because the toes are pointing down and in while the heel is lifted off the ground. The result is a tight calf muscle.
- Equinovarus foot posture
Due to its effects on the lower body, spasticity can limit a person’s ability to sit and stand upright. It may also keep a person from being able to walk or one. Transitioning from one position to another can be a challenge, even when one is simply trying to reposition themselves in bed.
Effects on Speech
Aside from the typical muscle groups, spasticity can also affect much smaller ones, like a person’s tongue, for example. Facial muscles and even one’s vocal folds can be manipulated by this issue.
As a result, people can suffer from:
- Slowed oral movements that take lots of effort
- Difficulty eating or drinking
- Slurred speech
- A voice that sounds tight or hoarse
This can keep a person from being able to converse effectively. It could also lead someone with spastic cerebral palsy to use communication boards or other physical materials to help them communicate more efficiently.
Like with any form of cerebral palsy, people suffering from this version can benefit from physical therapy. Fortunately, along with communication boards, there are also a number of other tools people can use to make life with this disability easier.