What is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is the collective name for brain injuries that occur pre-, during, or shortly after birth.
Typically, such brain injuries occur in the first year of life and affect normal neurological development. However, depending on how large and wherein the brain the injury has occurred, the complications associated with cerebral palsy are extremely broad. within the first year of life.
Cerebral palsy is most commonly recognized as a condition that affects the neuromuscular system, which refers to your ability to move your muscles, walk, perform coordinated movements, and so forth.
Unless confronted with contrition such as cerebral palsy or spinal injury, many people do not make the mental link between the brain, the nerve system, and muscle movements.
Many muscle problems are simply associated with overuse, posture problems, or even laziness. As cerebral palsy illustrated, it is the nerve system that controls the activities of muscles.
In other words, muscles simply do what the brain and nerves tell them to do.
Therefore, if there is miscommunication from the brain to the muscles, it can lead to a variety of potential complications.
In addition, many such neuromuscular problems have the potential to create imbalances in the body that manifest also as sensory problems such as pain or disequilibrium (aka balance problems), Furthermore, depending on the nature of the problem, the imbalance may also lead to premature wearing of the joints in the body and thus lead to degenerative arthritis, stiffness, pain and further restriction later in life.
For these reasons and many more, people who experience the many forms of cerebral palsy often require support as they develop and function through life.
Such support and healthcare workers may include physiologists, chiropractors, speech pathologists, physiotherapists, podiatrists, orthopaedists, and, of course, the people who may be directly involved with day-to-day care.
Reiterating what we have already said, cerebral palsy is a collective name for a variety of acquired or developmental brain injuries.
For the majority of people diagnoses with cerebral palsy, there are few if any disabilities. With the right care and support, these people were able to “heal their brains” and find adaptive ways to function normally and independently.
The stigma of cerebral palsy as a debilitative and restrictive condition comes from the more severe forms of it.
On this note, it is important for us to clarify what cerebral palsy is, what it is not, to differentiate among the different ways it can present, and (most importantly), what can be done in order to ensure that any person who experiences cerebral palsy can maintain the highest quality of health and life by ensuring the connection between the brain and body is as clear as possible.
Types of Cerebral Palsy
In order to understand the types of cerebral palsy, we need to consider just a little bit of neuroanatomy. The neuromuscular system has two functional divisions: 1) the pyramidal system and 2) the extrapyramidal system.
The pyramidal system supplies gross motor control from the cerebral cortex. The cerebral cortex has specific areas associated with the different parts of the body (called a “motor homunculus”), and also with the left and right halves of the body. Effectively, the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body and visa versa.
It may seem counterintuitive, but the function of the pyramidal system is to cause muscles to relax, not contract. In brief, the default state of muscle without a nerve supplied is to be contracted. Therefore, under normal circumstances, nerve signals from the motor cortex (aka pyramidal system) cause muscles to relax so that gross movement can occur.
The extrapyramidal system supplies fine motor coordination from many locations in the brainstem (known as basal ganglia) and also from the cerebellum. The function of these extrapyramidal nuclei is to “fine-tune” the gross motor movements to provide smooth and coordinated movements among all the muscles of the body.
Also, for any of these neuromuscular problems, a person may experience paresis (weakness) or paralysis (inability to move). Keeping these functions in mind, we may consider a few types of cerebral palsy:
(Note: This list is not all-inclusive, but may illustrate some of the more common forms of cerebral palsy).
- Spastic Cerebral Palsy - Dysfunction of the pyramidal system, which does not allow muscles to relax, therefore causing the affected muscles to get stuck rigidly in spasm. It is also known as “Hypertonic Cerebral Palsy
- Non-Spastic Cerebral Palsy - Dysfunction of the extrapyramidal system, which causes weakness in the body, therefore causing the affected muscles to fatigue easily. It is also known as “Hypotonic Cerebral Palsy.”
- Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy - Dysfunction of the basal ganglia, which causes abnormal movements during movement and also at rest: e.g., a) athetosis, which are involuntary rhythmic or repetitive movements; b) chorea, which are involuntary and random spasms; and c) dystonia, which are involuntary movements from an abnormal starting position.
- Ataxic Cerebral Palsy - Dysfunction of the cerebellum, which causes uncoordinated muscle movements and, in the case of upright posture, problems with balance and walking.
- Keep in mind also that for each of these types of cerebral palsy, it is possible for each to affect different areas of the body. For example, two people may both be diagnosed with “spastic cerebral palsy” … but if the first person experiences it in the left hand but the other person experiences it both of their legs, the nature of the condition is completely different.
Furthermore, it is possible for a person to experience “Mixed cerebral palsy,” which can involve combinations of the above even in different areas of the body. For example, a person may experience spastic cerebral palsy in the right arm but taxis cerebral palsy in the left foot.
Like tracing faults in an electrical circuit, it is all about where the damage in the brain occurred, and how the body has or has not been able to adapt to the situation.
Classification of Cerebral Palsy
The traditional way of grading cerebral palsy was based on the disabilities caused by the condition as either mild, moderate, or severe. The contemporary classification system is known as the "Gross Motor Function Class System” (GMFCS), which ranges from 1-5, specifically on the basic functional independence being able to walk and care for one’s own self.
- GMFSC I - Able to walk without significant limitations.
- GMFSC II - Able to walk, but with certain limitations (e.g., unable to walk long distances, unable to run or jump))
- GMFSC III - Able to walk but requiring equipment or assistance
- GMFSC IV - Unable to walk, but able to operate a wheelchair on own
- GMFSC V - Unable to operate a wheelchair on own and usually requires great care and assistance
Of note, depending on the severity, location, and nature of the cerebral palsy condition, it is often possible for people to exercise, train, and rehabilitate the brain. In other words, it may be possible to improve the classification of your cerebral palsy, and it does not need to be a label that limits or defines you with the right care.
What are the symptoms of Cerebral Palsy
As diverse as the types of cerebral palsy are, so are the symptoms associated with it.
We’ve already mentioned a few including muscle weakness (aka paresis) or paralysis.
We also mentioned how, depending on the part of the brain involved that there may be abnormal movements including athetosis (rhythmic or repetitive), chorea (random) or dystonia (posture distortions).
Particularly if you are a parent and wondering if your child may have a form of cerebral palsy, you may want to know some of the important signs.
- Delayed or difficulties sitting up, crawling, or walking
- Toe walking (which appears in many neurological conditions, believed to be a sign of “tension” on the nerve system, and maybe rectified with conservative care.
- In coordinated walking or balance issues (i.e., falling down for no apparent reason)
- Abnormal arm or head postures (e.g., the arm is always drawn up)
- Swallowing or speech difficulties, including delayed talking
Please keep in mind that simply because your child may show some of these signs does not mean that they have cerebral palsy. In order to know for certain, that requires a proper assessment with a neurologist including an MRI of the brain.
What is even more important to realize is that cerebral palsy is no guarantee of disability early or even later in life.
The reason is because of the brain’s amazing ability to adapt to circumstances, including physical damage. In other words, the brain can literally rewire and heal itself.
Especially for children diagnoses with cerebral palsy, it is important that they receive all the support that they can. There are a number of recognized therapies that specialize in helping people with cerebral palsy including occupational speech therapy and podiatry.
Furthermore, to promote neuromuscular development and to reduce the probability of pain and dysfunction later in life, many parents choose to include physiotherapy and chiropractic care as part of their management strategies, the former to focus on the muscles and the latter to focus on the nerve system.
How can upper cervical chiropractic improve the quality of life?
As we’re winding up this article, I feel it important to share with you a powerful form of healthcare that has a long history of helping people with a variety of conditions. I want to share with you how it may also be able to help you or your child with cerebral palsy.
It is called upper cervical chiropractic.
Upper cervical chiropractic is a special division of chiropractic that focuses on the relationship between the upper neck (C1 and C2 vertebrae) and the nerve system: specifically the brainstem which is the master control center for the entire body.
When this area is properly aligned, messages between the brain and body are clear. However, if this area is not properly aligned, it can cause an array of problems including decreased or abnormal nerve communication, decreased blood flow to and from the brain, and also altered muscle tone throughout the body.
You may find it interesting that the problems mentioned above can occur without cerebral palsy! So I’m sure you can imagine what can happen if you also have a cerebral palsy condition existing at the same time.
In this way, upper cervical chiropractic is not a treatment or cure for the brain or nerve damage that has occurred in cerebral palsy. What it is is a natural approach to helping improve brain-body function so that people can enjoy the highest quality of life possible.
A trained upper cervical chiropractic doctor completes advanced certifications in the diagnosis and management of these kinds of conditions.
What an assessment involves are a series of physical and neurological tests to identify if there is a problem, and then a precise series of customized x-rays or 3D images to show the exact direction and degree or any misalignments present.
With this level of information, an upper cervical chiropractic doctor is able to make a precise correction for the alignment in the upper neck without twisting, cracking, popping, or manipulation. I’ll write that again: no cracking, which is remarkably different from what may people think general chiropractic is.
By restoring normal communication as much as possible, an upper cervical chiropractic doctor may be able to help you or your child to experience relief and a greater expression of life.
Upper cervical chiropractor Brisbane
At Atlas Health, we believe in the innate potential for every human being to be extraordinary.
Our mission is to provide hope and to help people dealing with challenging health issues so that they can enjoy the quality of life that they desire most. The way we do that is through upper cervical specific care - restoring the life connection between the brain and body in the upper neck.
Our practice located in North Lakes is the premier upper cervical health center in Brisbane. Our principal, Dr. Jeffrey Hannah, is an advanced certified Blair upper cervical chiropractor. He is an international lecturer, advanced instructor, published author, and recognized leader in the field of upper cervical chiropractic care.
Dr. Hannah is happy to offer a 15-minute complimentary over-the-phone consultation with you to discuss your particular condition and to answer any questions you might have to decide if upper cervical care may be right for you.
To schedule a no-obligation consultation, you can reach our practice at 07 3188 9339, or click the Contact Us
We look forward to hearing from you, and we will do our best to assist you.
Atlas Health Australia - “Hope, healing, and wellbeing from above-down, inside-out.”
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