Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a general term used to describe a group of disorders that affect the normal development of movement and posture. CP is caused by an injury to the brain—such as infection, stroke, trauma, or the loss of oxygen to the brain—that occur before, during, or after birth or within the first 2 years of life. The injury to the brain is “nonprogressive,” meaning that it does not get worse after the initial injury. However, the day-to-day activities that can be affected by the injury during an individual’s childhood can worsen throughout the individual’s life.
Difficulties from CP can range from mild to severe. Individuals with CP may have trouble seeing, hearing, feeling, touching, thinking, or communicating. They may also experience seizures.
CP affects approximately 3.6 infants per 1,000 born in the United States. The number of children diagnosed with CP has grown in recent years as a result of the increased survival rates of premature babies and those born with low birth weights. The average life expectancy of adults with CP has increased as well. People with CP can benefit from physical therapy throughout all the stages of their lives.
Signs and Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy
Symptoms of CP differ from one person to the next. Symptoms might appear as early as 2 months of age and are usually seen before a child is 2 years old. Parents usually notice early signs that their child is not able to hold his or her head up as well as other babies, or easily reach, roll, sit, crawl, or walk.
Other symptoms of CP related to movement can include:
- Tight muscles that worsen with stress, illness, and time
- Tight joints that do not bend or stretch all the way, especially in the hands, elbows, hips, knees, or ankles
- Muscle weakness, or a decline in movements that the child had already been performing
- Lack of efficient movement of the legs, arms, trunk, or neck
- Lack of coordination
- “Floppy” muscles, especially in the neck or trunk
- Muscle tremors
Other symptoms of CP can include:
- Difficulty speaking or being understood
- Learning disorders (even though the child has normal intelligence)
- Vision problems
- Hearing problems
- Pain in joints that is often caused by tight muscles or poor posture
- Decreased mouth muscle strength or coordination leading to problems with eating and/or increased drooling
- Difficulty holding urine
- Slower-than-normal growth
How Can a Physical Therapist Help with Cerebral Palsy?
Our Little Rock, AR physical therapists are experts in helping people with CP improve their physical functions. They can help them stay active, and healthy, and perform day-to-day tasks such as walking, operating a wheelchair, and getting in or out of a wheelchair to and from a bathtub, bed, or car. Request an appointment at MCH Physical Therapy Clinic for more information.