What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is the most common physical disability in childhood with one baby being born with cerebral palsy every hour. But what is cerebral palsy exactly?

Cerebral palsy is the most common physical disability in childhood with one baby being born with cerebral palsy every hour. But what is cerebral palsy exactly?

Cerebral palsy is actually an umbrella term for a group of disorders affecting a person’s ability to move. It is considered a life-long physical disability as it is from damage to the developing brain. The exact cerebral palsy definition is “a condition marked by impaired muscle coordination (spastic paralysis) and/or other disabilities, typically caused by damage to the brain before or at birth.” Symptoms of cerebral palsy can differ from person to person, overall affecting their movement, muscle tone and or posture. When it comes to medical costs, those with cerebral palsy alone paid 10 times more than those without and have an estimated medical spending of nearly $1 million over their lifetime.

Cerebral Palsy Causes

Cerebral palsy is caused by either brain injury or brain malformation that can occur before, during, or immediately after birth while the brain is still under development. This in itself damages the brain and affects the brain’s development which in turn causes the child or adult to lose normal muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex, posture and balance. Below is a list of cerebral palsy causes:

Before Birth:

  • Damage to the white matter of the brain.
    Damage to white matter can disrupt signals between the brain and the body that control movement. White matter in a brain of a fetus is more sensitive to injury between 26 and 34 weeks of pregnancy; however, damage to the white matter can happen at any time during the pregnancy.
  • Abnormal brain development.
    When the normal growth process of the brain is disrupted, it can cause abnormalities that affect the transmission of brain signals. This normal growth process can be disrupted by infections, fever, trauma or gene changes (mutations) which may cause the brain to develop abnormally.
  • Lack of oxygen in the brain.
    When the brain does not get enough oxygen, it can become damaged. If the mother has very low blood pressure, a torn uterus, detachment of the placenta, problems with the umbilical cord, or severe trauma to the infant’s head during labor and/or delivery it can prevent oxygen from getting to the infant’s brain.
  • Bleeding in the brain.
    A common cause of brain bleeding is a stroke and a fetus could have a stroke while in the womb: This occurs when blood vessels in the brain become blocked or broken, leading to brain damage. Other conditions like blood clotting problems, abnormally formed blood vessels, heart defects and sickle cell disease may also cause bleeding in the brain.

After Birth:

There are a small number of children who have acquired cerebral palsy. Acquired cerebral palsy means the disorder began more than 28 days after birth.

  • Brain damage (first few months or years of life)
  • Infections (such as meningitis or encephalitis)
  • Problems with blood flow to the brain due to stroke, blood clotting problems, abnormal blood vessels, a heart defect present at birth or sickle cell disease
  • Head injury (such as a car accident, a fall, or child abuse)

Cerebral Palsy Symptoms

As stated earlier, symptoms for each person with cerebral palsy can differ. Keep in mind, children who do not have cerebral palsy may have some of these symptoms as well. If you see these symptoms, it is best to talk to the child’s doctor. Below are some early signs of cerebral palsy:

  • Developmental delays.
    The child is slow to reach milestones such as rolling over, sitting, crawling and walking.
  • Abnormal muscle tone.
    Parts of body may be floppy or too stiff.
  • Abnormal posture.
    The child might be using one side of their body more than the other while reaching, crawling, or moving.

Some other cerebral palsy symptoms by age include:

Younger than 6 months old:

  • Infant cannot hold up their head when picked up from lying on their back
  • May feel stiff or floppy
  • May overextend their back and neck – constantly acting as if they are pushing away from you
  • Legs get stiff or cross when picked up

Older than 6 months:

  • Cannot roll over
  • Reach out with only one hand while the other is in a fist
  • Has a hard time bringing their hands together
  • Cannot bring hands to their mouth

Older than 10 months:

  • Crawl in a lopsided way (they may push with one hand and leg while dragging the opposite hand and leg)
  • Cannot stand even when holding on to support
  • Scoot around on buttocks or hop on knees but do not crawl on all fours

Again, a child who does not have cerebral palsy may show some of the same symptoms so it is best to speak to a doctor if there is concern. A child can be diagnosed with cerebral palsy shortly after birth with a majority of children being diagnosed within the first two years. If a child has milder symptoms of cerebral palsy, they may not be diagnosed until the age of three to five years, when the brain is more developed.

Other cerebral palsy symptoms include:

  • Variations in muscle tone (being too stiff or too floppy)
  • Stiff muscles and exaggerated reflexes (spasticity)
  • Slow, writhing movements (athetosis)
  • Lack of muscle coordination (ataxia)
  • Tremors or involuntary movements
  • Difficulty walking
  • Excessive drooling or problems swallowing
  • Difficulty with sucking or eating
  • Difficulty with precise motions (picking up a crayon or spoon)
  • Seizures

Cerebral Palsy in Adults

Cerebral palsy in adults can lead to the individual experiencing a form of premature aging by the age of 40 due to extra stress and strain cerebral palsy puts on their bodies. Developmental delays from cerebral palsy keep some organ systems from reaching their full capacity and level of performance. Because of this, the cardiovascular system (heart, veins and arteries) and the pulmonary system (lungs) have to work harder, which causes them to age prematurely.

How can Upper Cervical Chiropractic help with Cerebral Palsy?
The cerebral palsy definition itself includes how it is caused by damage to the brain at or before birth. An upper cervical doctor focuses on how the brain can function with the rest of the body and their goal is to ensure your nervous system has complete normal function and brain to body communication by working on the bones at the base of your skull (C1 and C2).

As they correct misalignments on the top two bones at the base of your skull, your system starts to reach proper blood flow to the brain and relieves the pressure on your brain stem that is in charge of damaging the brain to body communication. Many patients diagnosed with cerebral palsy were able to see impressive changes after getting upper cervical adjustments, including speech, decrease in spasms, ability to move their neck normally, sit on their own and stop their seizures. The reason this is able to be possible is because of the normal functions of the body no longer being stunted by pressure from the misalignments.

This study follows a young boy’s journey with an upper cervical treatment for his cerebral palsy, giving him the ability to speak, reduced his medications, improved vision, feed himself and even learn to walk out of his wheelchair:

Cortical Blindness, Cerebral Palsy, and Seizures: A Case Study in Chiropractic Management – (Frank M. Painter)

The United Cerebral Palsy, one of the largest health nonprofits in the United States, mentions many with this disability are left uninsured or underinsured. In addition to this, other symptoms such as pain, arthritis, joint problems and fatigue are not uncommon for those with cerebral palsy, according to United Cerebral Palsy, and these symptoms are often reduced or completely fixed with upper cervical adjustments. This is important to recognize as upper cervical can help many with cerebral palsy discover a more financial friendly way of receiving help. 

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with cerebral palsy and are looking for a natural alternative to help, upper cervical may be the answer you are looking for. All corrections are gentle and safe for any age.


Frank M. Painter, D.C. Cortical Blindness, Cerebral Palsy, and Seizures: A Case Study in Chiropractic Management. n.d.