Non-Spastic Cerebral Palsy

Non-spastic cerebral palsy (CP), known by its medical name extrapyramidal, is a form of CP marked by weakened and unstable muscle tone as well as sudden, jerky movements, and variations of muscle tone, ranging from stiff to loose. There are two major types of non-spastic CP, divided into sub-categories depending on the symptoms and the severity of the disorder. All forms of non-spastic CP account for 20% of the CP cases in the United States.

Causes of Non-Spastic Cerebral Palsy

The pyramidal tract is an important part of the central nervous system that transmits motor impulses via fibers. These motor impulses help the body control voluntary movements. When a brain injury occurs inside the pyramidal tract, spastic CP may follow. However, when a brain injury occurs outside of the pyramidal tract, non-spastic CP may occur, and because of the injuries location, mental deficiencies are usually not associated with non-spastic CP.

Types of Non-Spastic Cerebral Palsy

Dyskinetic: Dyskinetic CP is marked by muscle tone fluctuations, ranging from stiff and rigid to loose and floppy. In some instances, people with dyskinetic CP may exhibit sudden, rapid jerking movements accompanied with unstable slow movements. In most cases, these involuntary movements can occur in the neck, face, hands, legs, feet, and arms. Some children may experience involuntary movements in the torso.

Athetoid: Athetoid CP is a form of dyskinetic CP, marked by fluctuations in muscle tone, even while sleeping. For infant and children who experience involuntary facial movement, additional problems may arise, such as abnormal facial expressions, difficulties with eat and drinking, drooling, and speech problems.

Ataxic: Ataxic CP is the rarest form of non-spastic CP, affecting around 5% of all non-spastic CP cases. The primary signs and symptoms include abnormal and unusual movements in the entire body, lack of balance, and difficulties with precise movements. In addition, when reaching for objects, people with ataxic CP may favor one hand over the other, and the hand that’s not in use may shake and jerk while using the other hand.

Treatment Options

It’s recommended that people with non-spastic CP enroll in an early intervention plan as soon as possible, where physicians will be able to assess the patient’s medical history and severity of disabilities. Generally, children do well in physical therapy where they can practice fine motor skills, balance, coordination, and exercise their muscles. In addition, occupational therapy can assist with daily living skills such as eating, dressing, interacting with others, and taking part in activities. In some instances, medication may be prescribed to help with common issues such as shaking, drooling, and stiff, painful muscles.

Prognosis for Non-Spastic Cerebral Palsy

With ongoing therapy, and if applicable, medication, the prognosis for children with non-spastic CP is favorable, and most go on to thrive despite limitations. However, it’s important to remember that each child is different and will have different degrees of disabilities. Be certain that you, your physician, therapists, and caregivers set up a plan that addresses your child’s specific needs.