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Types of Cerebral Palsy

As we covered in our section on What is Cerebral Palsy?, all types of Cerebral Palsy are divided up depending on how the person’s movement and muscles are affected. 

In this post, we will cover the four main types of Cerebral Palsy: Spastic CP, Dyskinetic CP, Ataxic CP, and Mixed CP, and how those types of Cerebral Palsy can affect a person’s mobility, coordination, posture, and independence. 

This information has been compiled from government sources, medical sources, and from consulting with experts on Cerebral Palsy. 

Keep reading to learn more.

Three Movement Disorders

There are three types of movement disorders related to CP. The degree to which a person is affected by each type of movement disorder determines the type of CP the person has. Those three movement disorders are as follows:

  • Spasticity: which relates to stiff muscles
  • Dykinesia: which relates to uncontrollable movements
  • Ataxia: which relates to poor balance and coordination

As we introduced in our What is Cerebral Palsy? section, here is an explanation of what those three medical terms mean: 

Spasticity comes from the Greek word “spastikos” and in modern english refers to stiff muscles.

Dyskinesia comes from the Greek word “dyskīnēsía” and refers to muscle spasms and uncontrollable movements. 

Ataxia comes from two Greek words, “a,” which means without, and “taxis,” which means order. Taken together, Ataxia refers to poor balance and coordination. 

When diagnosing a case of CP, doctors will observe whether a person is affected by each of these three movement disorders to diagnose one of four types of CP. 

Spastic CP

Spastic Cerebral Palsy is the most common type of CP. Approximately 80% of people affected by CP have Spastic CP. Spastic CP is connected to the medical term Spasticity, which we introduced in the previous section of this post. If a person has increased muscle tone, their muscles will be stiff. Stiff muscles are the primary characteristic of Spastic CP.

A person with increased muscle tone, or stiff muscles, will have trouble moving. If a person has Spastic CP, the doctors will next observe which areas of the body have muscle stiffness. 

  • If the stiffness is mostly in the legs, then the person has Spastic Diplegia or Diparesis. Diplegia and Diparesis refer to stiffness or paralysis found in the legs on both sides of the body. Taken together, Spastic Diplegia/Diparesis means a stiffness or paralysis of the muscles found in both legs. 
  • If the stiffness only affects one side of the body, an arm and a leg on the same side, then that is known as Spastic Hemiplegia or Hemiparesis. Hemiplegia and Hemiparesis refer to a stiffness or paralysis on one side of the body. Taken together, Spastic Hemiplegia or Hemiparesis means a stiffness or paralysis of the muscles on one arm and leg on the same side of the body.
  • If the stiffness affects all four legs and arms, then it is called Spastic Quadriplegia or Quadriparesis. Quadriplegia and Quadriparesis are medical terms for stiffness or paralysis affecting both arms and both legs. Taken together, Spastic Quadriplegia or Quadriparesis mean a stiffness or paralysis of both arms and legs. This is the most severe kind of Spastic CP, and is often accompanied by other disabilities. For more information on related conditions, read our post on Conditions Related to CP.

Dyskinetic CP

Dyskinetic CP involves involuntary muscle movements and spasms. When a person tries to move their limbs, the movements are jerky and uncoordinated, or they are too slow, or too fast. 

Dyskinetic CP can result in a person having great difficulty with tasks like sitting, standing up, and walking. It can also make it tough for a person to properly swallow food and drinks, or to communicate through speech. 

Unlike Spastic CP, where the muscles are characterized only by stiffness, with Dyskinetic CP, the muscles may be too loose or too tight, and may change throughout the day. 

Dyskinetic CP also includes:

  • Athetoid CP
  • Choreoathetoid CP
  • Dystonic CP

Athetoid CP

Athetoid CP is often used interchangeably with Dyskinetic CP and is sometimes abbreviated as “ADCP,” which stands for “Athetoid Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy.”  

Choreoathetoid CP

Choreoathetoid CP is one of two subcategories of Dyskinetic CP, and is defined by involuntary movement that is found mostly in the face and in the extremities. 

Dystonic CP

Dystonic CP is the second category of Dyskinetic CP, and is defined by long, slow contractions that may be limited to one area of the body, or may include the entire body at once. 

Ataxic CP

Ataxic CP is characterized by difficulty with coordination and balance. In mild cases of Ataxic CP, the person may have a limp when she walks, or struggle with finer motor control required for tasks like handwriting. 

It may also be difficult for the person to perform athletic tasks to participate in sports, like kicking a soccer ball, or catching an object. Reaching for and grasping an object may also be difficult, as the person may struggle to control their hands and arms as her body struggles to maintain balance and coordination. 

Mixed CP

Sometimes people have signs of more than one kind of Cerebral Palsy. In those instances, the person has what is known as Mixed CP. The types of CP that are found most commonly together are Spastic CP and Dyskinetic CP. 

In our next section, we will cover the common Causes of Cerebral Palsy. Read on to learn more!

About Brown Trial Firm

Getting help for a child with cerebral palsy can make a big difference. Because early intervention is often key to helping improve a child’s wellbeing, it’s important to act swiftly.

At the Brown Trial Firm, our birth injury attorneys can help you investigate your case, find answers to your questions, and determine whether you are entitled to compensation. 

We offer case reviews at no cost or obligation. Many birth injuries that cause cerebral palsy could have been prevented. Don’t wait, get help today. Call us toll free at +1 (866) 223-7465 or email us a [email protected].


What is Cerebral Palsy? | CDC. (2018). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved 31 October 2019, from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/cp/facts.html

Alliance, C. (2019). Types of cerebral palsy | Cerebral Palsy Alliance. Cerebralpalsy.org.au. Retrieved 31 October 2019, from https://cerebralpalsy.org.au/our-research/about-cerebral-palsy/what-is-cerebral-palsy/types-of-cerebral-palsy/

What are the types of cerebral palsy?. (2019). http://www.nichd.nih.gov/. Retrieved 31 October 2019, from https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/cerebral-palsy/conditioninfo/types

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