• Nina Barker

Cerebral Palsy & Neurophysiotherapy

Updated: Mar 24

Firstly, let's understand what Cerebral Palsy actually is.


What is Cerebral Palsy?

The term 'cerebral' relates to the brain. The term 'palsy' relates to paralysis or weakness. So Cerebral Palsy describes movement disorders related to the brain. Cerebral Palsy is a permanent neurological disorder which occurs when a person's brain is unable to exercise normal control over coordination and muscle movement. Cerebral Palsy (or CP) is a group of non-progressive conditions of abnormal brain development or brain injury, which can occur before, during or after birth. Impairments can range from mild to severe and may lead to movement, balance, postural and other impairments.


This abnormal brain development or brain injury may occur during fetal gestation (pregnancy), childbirth, or early infancy. Once brain cells are damaged, they do not regenerate, so brain injury during these early developmental stages causes permanent disability. Although Cerebral Palsy can be caused by other developmental abnormalities, it is not generally considered an inherited condition. Rather, Cerebral Palsy is often considered a 'birth injury' because it can result from injury to a fetus or baby during gestation or labor and delivery.



Did You Know That There Are Four Types of Cerebral Palsy?

There are four main types of CP:

  1. Spastic Cerebral Palsy

  2. Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy

  3. Ataxic Cerebral Palsy and

  4. Mixed Cerebral Palsy

Spastic Cerebral Palsy: is the most common and accounts for approximately 80% of all Cerebral Palsy cases. This condition is associated with 'spasticity,' which is tightness or stiffness related to muscles and or movement and may involve one or multiple limbs (refer to the image below):

  • Spastic Hemiplegia: affects both limbs (ie: an arm and a leg) on one side of the body

  • Spastic Diplegia: symmetrically affects both arms or both legs

  • Spastic Quadriplegia: affects all four limbs

  • Spastic Monoplegia: affects one limb (one arm or one leg).

Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy: is characterised by three types of variable involuntary movements, which are categorised as:

  • Dystonic: twisting

  • Athetoid: slow writhing and

  • Chorea: sudden, sudden, jerky, dance-like movements.

Ataxic Cerebral Palsy: is the least common type and it characterised by impaired coordination of movement, balance and depth perception.


Mixed Cerebral Palsy: is any combination of more than one of the above types of Cerebral Palsy.

What Are The Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy?

All people with Cerebral Palsy have movement and postural disorders which may include

  • spasticity and increased muscle tone

  • hypotonia (low muscle tone)

  • developmental delay

  • poor coordination

  • balance impairment, including falls

  • impaired fine and gross motor control for activities such as: walking and running sitting and standing; reaching and grasping; throwing and catching

  • notable differences in movements between sides

  • oral motor impairments affecting activities like speech and swallowing.

Other symptoms may include:

  • intellectual disability

  • visual, hearing, and/or speech impairment

  • seizures

  • scoliosis (curvature of the spine)

  • contractures (decreased joint movement)

  • pain

  • sleep issues

  • continence issues and other conditions.

Treatment for Cerebral Palsy

Unfortunately there is no cure for Cerebral Palsy, so interventions are used to improve functional capacity and to manage symptoms such as pain and muscle tone and to improve quality of life.


Medications may also be used to manage pain and muscle tone, such as Botox, which is often used to reduce muscle tone and improve movement. Physiotherapy prior to and after the use of Botox is important for enhancing improved movement and function.


An interdisciplinary team approach is important for the effective care of those with Cerebral Palsy, which may include allied health professionals such as Neuro-Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists, Speech Pathologists, Dieticians and Continence Advisors, etc.


How Can a Neurological Physiotherapist Help with Cerebral Palsy?

Neurophysiotherapy is physiotherapy performed by Neurological Physiotherapists who are specially trained to diagnose and treat people with movement and function disorders that have originated from problems within the body's nervous and neuromuscular system. These disorders affect the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). Please read our blog titled 'What is Neurological physiotherapy? What is Neuro Physio?' if you would like to learn more.


A Neurological Physiotherapist is a specially trained Physiotherapist who has a high level of understanding of Cerebral Palsy. A Neuro Physio will work with you, your family and your support workers to help you with:

  • improved movement and motor control

  • balance and mobility training to reduce falls risk

  • research, assess and prescribe appropriate Assistive Technology and equipment to improve mobility

  • assessments, advice, and techniques to improve transfers including with and without the use of Assistive Technology or assistance from other people

  • posture management

  • pain management and techniques to support pain relief

  • exercises and stretches to maintain and improve posture, range of movement and functional capability

  • communicate with your family and carers about the support that you need

  • educate your family and carers about Cerebral Palsy.

A Neurophysiotherapist can help you achieve your goals with a tailored Physiotherapy Treatment Plan specifically relevant to your specific needs. A Neuro Physio is experienced in working with Neurological disabilities and knows how to help you manage your condition as effectively as possible.


A Neurophysiotherapist will take a tailored approach that best addresses the impairments or issues that you personally experience with Cerebral Palsy. A Neurophysiotherapist is trained to understand and help manage the way Cerebral Palsy may be impacting your daily life.


A Neurophysiotherapist can work alongside you and your family and other healthcare providers to assist you with targeted exercises for a specific limb or a broader muscle group and it can be delivered at your home, a gym or swimming pool, or somewhere else in the community depending on your needs.


Personalised Treatment Aligned to Achieving Your Goals

If you or someone you love has Cerebral Palsy and you are considering getting physiotherapy, it is vitally important to ensure that you engage a Neurological Physiotherapist to support effective treatment. A good Neuro Physio will take the time to understand your goals and what you'd like to achieve and integrate this into a personalised physiotherapy Treatment Plan.


Body Agility Can Help You

Body Agility are nationally registered NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) providers of physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, exercise physiology and personal training. Experience the Body Agility difference and experience exceptional care and customer service. We take the time to understand your NDIS Goals, to fully understand your condition, and to create a tailored Treatment Plan to help you achieve your goals.


What are YOUR goals? We can help. Contact us now, we have capacity to provide services to you immediately, right across the broader Perth region with home visits, or at one of our clinics / gyms or studio - or via video consultation (telehealth). We'd be delighted to hear from you.


Nina Barker is Body Agility's Senior Physiotherapist, who is a Neurological Physiotherapist. Nina is a highly qualified and experienced Physiotherapist who possesses qualifications in neuroscience, psychology and physiotherapy and is also endorsed for neurorehabilitation. Book an appointment with Nina here.




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