Cerebral Palsy and Spasticity

Working with your child's primary care doctor, we will design a treatment plan tailored to your child's condition. Your child may need more than one kind of treatment, or treatment requiring several visits to UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital. Your child also may be referred to additional doctors or other medical professionals.

Because cerebral palsy can't be cured, treatment is an ongoing process to manage the disease's effects and improve your child's quality of life. Medications can be prescribed to control seizures and muscle spasms. Special braces may be recommended to improve muscle balance. Sometimes, surgery or mechanical aids are advised. Physical, speech and behavioral therapy may be part of your child's treatment program.

Your child's neurologist will explain possible risks or complications from the treatments that your child will receive.

Feel free to ask questions about your child's treatments. If your child is prescribed new medication, be sure that he or she takes it exactly as instructed. And make sure your child keeps all follow-up appointments with our doctors and other medical staff.

The members of your child's medical team may include:

  • Doctors such as a pediatrician, a pediatric neurologist who specializes in the brain and nervous system, a pediatric physiatrist who helps restore physical function, an orthopedic surgeon who treats bones and muscles and a neurosurgeon who performs surgery on the brain and nervous system.
  • Nurses who are specially trained to treat children with neurological disorders.
  • Physical therapists whose exercise programs can help your child improve movement and build strength.
  • Occupational therapists who help your child learn skills to cope better at home and at school.
  • Speech pathologists who help your child communicate better.
  • Psychologists who help your child deal with the emotional effects of cerebral palsy.
  • Educators who help your child overcome educational challenges associated with cerebral palsy, such as learning disabilities.
  • Social workers who help you and your child find educational programs and other services in your community.

Orthopedic Treatment

Orthopedic surgeons treat problems with bones, muscles, tendons, nerves or joints. Specific treatments for children with cerebral palsy may include physical therapy to decrease spasticity and improve function, orthopedic appliances such as braces to prevent deformity, and surgery to correct deformities.

Physical therapy may begin immediately after diagnosis to help your child learn skills like sitting, walking or using a wheelchair; improve muscle strength, balance and coordination; and prevent muscles from shortening. Stretching muscles may help prevent contraction. Physical therapy may involve activities like swimming and horseback riding to tone muscles.

Using braces, splints or casts may improve your child's joint mobility and stability, prevent contraction and improve hand or leg function. Braces can compensate for muscle imbalance. If contraction is severe, surgery may lengthen affected muscles.

Surgery also may help if tightly contracted muscles cause stress to joints and lead to deformities or dislocations. Some children with cerebral palsy need surgery to correctly position their arms or legs.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers

Pediatric Brain Center

Child and Adolescent Neurology Clinic
1825 Fourth St., Fifth Floor, 5A
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-7596
Fax: (415) 353-2400
Appointment information

Neuro-Intensive Care Nursery (NICN)
1975 Fourth St., Third Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-1565
Fax: (415) 353-1202