Types Of Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a broad term which describes disorders which affect an individual’s posture, balance and body movement.

All the many types of cerebral palsy often occur while the embryo is developing during pregnancy where some form of abnormal development or damage is caused to the brain. It can also result from a trauma that was caused during the birth process itself where for one of many reasons the infant was deprived of either blood or oxygen.

In either event, if the area of the brain affected controls muscle tone or motor activity, the baby will have a form of cerebral palsy. Parents who notice an apparent deviation from the developmental norm of their child should seek professional medical advice from an experienced clinic or medical practitioner.

To describe the particular area of the brain which was damaged and the types of movement which are challenged, medical specialists classify cerebral palsy into five broad categories.



Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common way cerebral palsy manifests, affecting from 70 to 80 percent of those diagnosed with CP. This type of cerebral palsy causes hypertonia, or muscle tightness. Spasticity can affect one side of the body or just the legs. Quadriplegia affects all four limbs with spasticity.

Athetoid cerebral palsy affects about 25 percent of those with CP.  Also known as dyskenetic cerebral palsy, this version of CP manifests as slow, involuntary muscle movement accompanied by mixed muscle tone: some muscles have too high a tone, while others too low.

Hypotonic cerebral palsy is characterized by floppiness of the arms, legs and sometimes accompanied by poor head control. Whereas healthy infants show a moderate amount of resistance when their arms or legs are moved, children and infants with hypotonic cerebral palsy show little resistance. Due to their poor muscle tone, those with hypotonic CP have trouble maintaining their posture, and often slouch, lie down, or lean over rather than holding themselves up. This type of CP is also associated with fatigue since a great deal of energy is needed to move the hands, arms and legs.

The least common type of cerebral palsy is ataxic, found in only 5 to 10 percent of those with CP. In this manifestation of CP the part of the cerebellum which controls balance and coordination is adversely affected. Ataxic cerebral palsy is characterized by poor muscle tone and difficulty coordinating movements in the arms, legs and torso.

In about 10 percent of those with CP, several of the different types of cerebral palsy come together in one individual. Known as mixed cerebral palsy, the most common combination (occurring about 10 percent of all mixed CP cases) is having spastic and athetoid movements occurring together. All other combinations are also possible, but are not as common.