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Natural Treatments to Improve Symptoms

This chronic condition affects the central nervous system, especially the brain, and causes changes in motor control. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers cerebral palsy to be the most common childhood motor disability. (1) While it’s not usually a life-threatening condition — most children who have cerebral palsy survive into adulthood — typically, managing the disorder requires a high level of care long-term due to how it makes everyday tasks like speaking, eating and writing more difficult.

There is currently no cure for cerebral palsy. But many options are available to help children with the disorder deal with physical and mental difficulties. Symptoms of cerebral palsy can sometimes affect many parts of the body, making it hard for someone to live on their own. But not every person with cerebral palsy will be very physically or intellectually challenged. Some can overcome many limitations with early intervention and have normal — or near-normal, sometimes even above-average — levels of intelligence.

Treatments for cerebral palsy vary depending on the severity of symptoms. Some common treatment approaches include:

  • special education training and resources
  • physical therapy and stretching muscles to prevent shortening and risk for deformities
  • using a walker or braces
  • in some cases, surgery to help decrease symptoms like spasms or developmental deformities

What Is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a neurological condition that causes abnormal motor control and other symptoms due to changes that take place in the brain. (2) It affects about 2 to 4 of every 1,000 infants born. The disorder is much more common among prematurely born infants, especially those who are underweight, compared to full-term infants who are born at a normal weight. (3)

During early development of infants’ brains who have cerebral palsy, injuries occur that affect functions including movement, language and social skills. Symptoms associated with cerebral palsy can develop either before birth in the womb, during birth, or at some point during the first several months of life.

What is the underlying cause of cerebral palsy, and are there known risk factors? Researchers believe there are actually many causes and factors that can contribute to cerebral palsy in newborns or infants; however, sometimes no known cause can be found. When a cause is known, it can include: reduced blood flow/circulation to the brain during pregnancy, oxygen deprivation, infections affecting the brain or damage due to other illnesses, or brain injury that takes place during delivery.

Types of Cerebral Palsy:

Cerebral palsy is not one specific condition but rather refers to a group of symptoms including: poor motor and muscle control, weakness, developmental problems, spasticity and sometimes paralysis. There are four general categories of cerebral palsy, which have some overlaps but are different from one another due to the symptoms that tend to occur: (4)

  • Spastic cerebral palsy — This is the most common type, which causes convulsions and abnormal reflexes in newborns/infants. Infants with spastic cerebral palsy can experience prolonged newborn reflexes, such as having a very tight grip (the hand is held in a tight fist), and stiff, spastic limbs. In some infants a level of intellectual disability will also occur (no longer referred to as “mental retardation’”). Some only experience symptoms that affect their arms, called diplegia, but have near-normal mental capabilities and intelligence.
  • Athetoid cerebral palsy — This type affects up to 20 percent of children with cerebral palsy and is characterized by slow, uncontrolled writhing movements. Symptoms usually cause abnormal control of the hands, feet, legs and arms. Sometimes the tongue and other muscles of the face are also impaired. This can cause trouble eating, difficulty speaking, drooling or grimacing (scowling or frowning).
  • Ataxic cerebral palsy — A rarer type of cerebral palsy, characterized by trouble with balance, coordination, walking and depth-perception. Having a wide-based stance and struggling with precise movements are some of the common symptoms that occur. This can cause problems with writing, gripping objects, and other everyday activities.
  • Mixed form cerebral palsy — When a child has symptoms of one or more of the above types of cerebral palsy, they are considered to have a mixed form of the disease. The most common mixed form of cerebral palsy is spastic combined with athetoid.

Cerebral Palsy Causes & Risk Factors

It’s believed that in most cases more than one cause contributes to the types of brain injuries that cause symptoms of cerebral palsy. Causes can include one or more of the following:

Inadequate blood flow reaching tissues in the developing brain, especially during early pregnancy in the first trimester.

Injury to the brain that occurs during labor and delivery.

Infection or illnesses that occur inside or near the brain during pregnancy. This can include rubella, toxoplasmosis, or cytomegalovirus.

Bleeding in the brain during pregnancy, which can happen due to fetuses having vulnerable blood vessels and sometimes high levels of bilirubin, which contribute to brain injury.

Illnesses that cause inflammation of brain tissue during the first year of life, such as meningitis, sepsis, impact/trauma, or severe dehydration.