What Is Spastic Cerebral Palsy? The Most Common Subtype

Published by: Verywell Health
Written by: Heidi Moawad

Cerebral palsy is a lifelong condition characterized by impaired motor control due to congenital (from birth) brain defects, often with other associated symptoms. There are four different types of cerebral palsy, and spastic cerebral palsy, also called hypertonic cerebral palsy, is the type that’s diagnosed in 80% of people who have cerebral palsy.

What Is Spastic Cerebral Palsy? 

Spastic cerebral palsy is characterized by diminished motor control and spasticity of the muscles. Spasticity is tightness and rigidity of the muscle, sometimes with a jerky component. Contractures can develop in the affected muscles, resulting in a tight, fixed position of a limb that is difficult to move, even passively.

Spastic cerebral palsy can involve paresis (motor weakness) or plegia (paralysis) of the affected muscles. Three subtypes of spastic cerebral palsy are defined by which parts of the body are affected.

You or your child may have:2

  • Spastic hemiplegia/hemiparesis affecting one limb or the arm and leg on one side of the body
  • Spastic diplegia/diparesis, affecting both legs
  • Spastic quadriplegia/quadriparesis affecting all four limbs

The main difference between spastic cerebral palsy and the other defined types—ataxic cerebral palsy (predominated by coordination and balance problems) and dyskinetic cerebral palsy (predominated by abnormal involuntary movements)—is that spasticity is a predominant symptom of spastic type.


The symptoms of spastic cerebral palsy can affect one or both sides of the body and might involve just one limb. Impaired voluntary movements, spasms, jerking, tremors, and muscle tightness can be present. In addition to motor effects, spastic cerebral palsy can also cause cognitive deficits, vision impairment, diminished hearing, and seizures.  The condition affects each of the different muscle groups in the body in specific ways. Click here to read the rest of the story

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