Spastic cerebral palsy is a type of cerebral palsy that yields out of control movements. It is very painful for the children and adults who suffer from the condition. Spastic CP usually results in partial paralysis and abnormal postures that can cause persistent discomfort.

What is causing the pain?

The main causes of pain in people with spastic CP are:

  • Muscle spasms
  • Joint and limb pain
  • Spinal cord pain in the back and neck
  • Gastrointestinal pain
  • Infections
  • Mouth cavity, teeth, and gum pain

Spastic refers to spasms, which are involuntarily muscle contractions that can last anywhere from a couple of seconds to upwards of 20 minutes. During these spasms, which afflict most people who suffer from cerebral palsy, multiple muscles over some parts of the body will clench up rapidly. The intensity can range from a small twitch on the light end to severe pain on the high end.

All forms of cerebral palsy, including spastic CP, involve some degree of muscle hypotonia. When the muscle tone is very low, it leads to problems with lifting limbs or the head or staying upright. This causes all sorts of pain, from back pain to urinary tract infections and respiratory issues.

In general, spastic pain tends to mostly impact the areas around the neck, shoulders, back, hips, and joints. A common trait of spastic cerebral palsy is malformation of the spine, which is also known as scoliosis. In individuals who are already suffering from limited mobility, scoliosis and other spinal issues put a lot of pressure on the intestines. This can sometimes cause a lot of gastrointestinal pain and other digestive problems.

Individuals with spastic cerebral palsy are also more likely to suffer from frequent headaches. Another issue is cavities and gum disease, which, as low on the priority list as it might sound, can still be a big pain. Oral hygiene can be a challenge for anybody, but it’s particularly compounded by physical limitations like CP.

Because of the bodily pain that can be brought on by awkward movements, pain can be common during routine activities like putting on clothes in the morning or trying to eat or drink. Esophageal issues and other problems with the neck present an additional challenge to people with spastic CP enjoying a meal.

 

Pain management is not an easy road

One recent study found that 75% of adults with all types of CP suffer from chronic pain. For a child, this is even more harmful as the consistent pain associated with involuntary muscle spasms significantly detracts from their daily life.

Despite the hardships, pain management is possible. How to go about addressing pain depends on the type of pain, the location, and the ways in which it interferes with daily activities. The three general steps for spastic cerebral pain management in children is physical and occupational therapy, followed by medication, and then surgery.

Occupational therapy involves training a child with cerebral palsy to undertake normal activities that are otherwise limited by their physical condition. One means of doing this would be showing the child how to creatively or nimbly utilize active limbs or hands to play with toys or even brush their teeth. This type of therapy can help avoid those potential dental problems down the road.

Physical therapy is more focused on stretching as a means of increasing mobility and also cutting down on pain. For example, following a strict daily stretching routine as prescribed by a physical therapist is extremely useful for getting dressed in the morning without too much muscle or joint pain.

Even with a strict physical and occupational therapy routine, it is common for people with spastic cerebral palsy, even children, to take pain medication. Trust your doctor, but be sure to do your own research and stay informed about the risks of heavy duty prescription pain medication.

Oftentimes, children with spastic cerebral palsy who are in the middle of growing will need to undergo surgeries, usually orthopedic, to allow them to physically develop bones and muscle in the least restrictive and painful way. Common types of surgeries include the painful areas mentioned above, such as neck, legs, shoulders, and the head.

 

Other considerations

Cerebral palsy is usually developed in the womb, but it can also be caused by factors including giving birth and medical negligence. A cerebral palsy lawyer can be of tremendous help if you are looking for resources that can help your child.