Video: What Exactly is Cerebral Palsy? How Do I Know…

About one in 400 children born alive has cerebral palsy. In this video Dr Lucinda Carr explains the causes, symptoms and treatment

Editor’s Note: Video Highlights

Cerebral Palsy:

  • Describes a persistent disorder of movement or posture caused by an abnormality of the immature brain
  • It’s surprisingly common and occurs in one in 400 live births
  • And ranges in severity from mild to severe

Causes – many different:

  • For the majority, the causes occur prior to birth. The brain may not develop normally in the womb, due to genetics, infection or trauma
  • A small group experience problems around the time of birth although this is uncommon
  • The highest-risk group are children born prematurely (40% of children with cerebral palsy were born prematurely)

Signs / Symptoms

  • An early ultrasound brain scan may show some damage
  • “Fits” shortly after the baby is born
  • Problems with movement when the child begins to develop
    • Not moving their hands and legs normally
    • Not beginning to sit or walk when expected (developmental milestones)

Treatment – once diagnosis is made

  • A (UK) child will meet with a local child development team* – typically a doctor and a physiotherapist.
  • It may be helpful to involve speech therapists, occupational therapists and psychologists at this point.
  • The aim is to help identify what the child finds difficult and help the with this.
  • The common aim is to help the child in their movements – to keep the muscles strong and of good length and avoid contractures that could require orthopaedic surgery to correct
    • Doing stretching and strengthening exercises
    • Using splints and orthotics where necessary
    • Botox injections may help to relax the stiff muscles
  • As they grow we look to their needs as young adults

Most young people with cerebral palsy are fully independent and have full, active lives

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

* It is likely that a similar set of doctors would get involved at this point in the US

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About the Author

NHS Choices ( is the UK’s biggest health website. It provides a comprehensive health information service to help put you in control of your healthcare.


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