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Are There Treatments for Spastic Cerebral Palsy?

February 04, 2021

Spastic cerebral palsy has no cure. The initial brain injury that causes it cannot be reversed. Various treatment options, however, can improve the symptoms of this type of cerebral palsy significantly and help those affected to improve the quality of their lives. Common treatments include physical, speech, and occupational therapies, medicines for muscle stiffness or pain, and surgery to increase mobility.

Types of Treatment for Spastic Cerebral Palsy

Chicago cerebral palsy lawyers handle many cases related to spastic cerebral palsy. In fact, spastic cerebral palsy affects approximately 80% of individuals with cerebral palsy.

The condition is characterized by excessively stiff muscles, which is caused by a problem or injury to the motor cortex. This is the area of the brain that plans, controls, and executes movement. As a result, people with this condition find it hard or impossible to move some parts of their bodies.

The location of the movement problems and severity of symptoms vary from one individual to another. Medical professionals analyze them before coming up with a suitable treatment plan for an individual. The following are the main treatment options for spastic cerebral palsy.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is typically the first treatment recommended for a child with spastic cerebral palsy. It can also be done after surgery has been performed on the child to help maximize the results from the surgery. The treatment helps a child develop as much independence as possible. By improving strength, balance, and movement, physical therapy helps children learn skills like operating a wheelchair, rolling, or walking independently.

The stretching and daily range-of-motion exercises that physical therapists typically use improve the mobility of soft tissues and joints. To make the therapy more enjoyable for children, physical therapists tend to use age-appropriate games and toys.

Speech Therapy

Speech therapy improves oral movements. It incorporates exercises and assistive technologies that help children strengthen the muscles they use for speech. That allows them to communicate and socialize better and enhances their cognitive abilities and confidence. 

Spastic cerebral palsy can cause drooling and difficulty chewing or swallowing. Speech therapy can also help make chewing and swallowing easier, significantly improving a child’s growth and development.

Occupational Therapy

This form of therapy helps individuals develop strategies to complete daily life activities such as toileting, bathing, dressing, feeding, and grooming. The exercises involved target muscles in the thumb, forearm, wrist, and upper body. Some of the tools utilized include:

  • Household items
  • Interactive play
  • Toys that improve motor function
  • Assistive tools and technologies like adaptive scissors

Occupational therapists aim to make a child perform tasks as independently as possible at home, school, and public environments.


Several medications are available to help lessen muscle stiffness, decrease pain, and manage other complications related to spastic cerebral palsy. They can be taken orally or administered by injection or a pump implanted into the abdomen. Common medications given to treat spastic cerebral palsy include:

  • Benzodiazepines
  • Chemodenervation agents
  • Baclofen
  • Dantrolene sodium
  • Tizanidine

Benzodiazepines reduce stiffness and improve body movements. They are taken orally. Diazepam, a member of the benzodiazepine family, is especially beneficial for alleviating lower leg spasticity. It helps relax the muscles. Chemodenervation agents like botulinum toxins (Botox), phenol, and alcohol treat localized spasticity.

When treating spastic cerebral palsy with medications, the goal is usually to get the most effective results with the fewest negative side effects. Medication can be paired with surgery to help a child get maximum benefits from treatment.

Surgical Procedures

Children with spastic cerebral surgery may need surgery in addition to the other forms of treatment. Surgical procedures tend to focus on feet, ankles, legs, wrists, and arms. They can improve mobility, align muscles, and help correct joint dislocations, posture, sensory impairments, and other complications that spastic cerebral palsy causes.

The common surgeries performed to treat the effects of spastic cerebral palsy include:

Orthopedic surgery: It is performed on joints, ligaments, tendons, nerves, muscles, and bones. Its goal is to improve motor skills, mobility, balance, and coordination. It can also significantly reduce the pain experienced in the affected areas.

Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy: SDR involves cutting the nerve fibers that are causing spasticity. This relaxes the muscles, reduces pain, and improves mobility. It is more invasive and aggressive than other surgical procedures but can be significantly beneficial if the extensive rehabilitation process that follows it is completed.

The treatment costs for children with spastic cerebral palsy can put a tremendous financial strain on parents. The condition is often caused by an injury that occurs before, during, or after birth. Negligent medical staff can be held accountable for birth injuries, helping parents get the funds they need to take care of the affected children’s lifelong expenses.

About The Author

Photo of Jeffrey  Goldberg
Attorney Jeffrey M. Goldberg has spent his entire professional career handling cases involving birth injury, medical malpractice, product liability and related accidents.