Prognosis for People with Cerebral Palsy

Most people with cerebral palsy experience a normal life span. Those with severe forms of CP may have a reduced life span. As people with cerebral palsy age, they may experience long-term effects of chronic physical impairment, such as the following:

  • Increase in spasms
  • Increase in shortening of muscles (contractures)
  • Joint problems (e.g., pain, loss of flexibility)
  • Tight muscles
  • Increase in back pain
  • Emergence of incontinence
  • Increase in incontinence
  • Reduced energy levels

Factors that contribute to these effects include:

  • Poor wheelchair seating and posture
  • Spinal deformities
  • Weight gain
  • Severe learning disability
  • Discontinuance of physical therapy
  • Walking when it is increasingly difficult
  • Inappropriate orthopedic surgery

Physical exhaustion from inadequate rest or recovery from illness or injury can lead to an overall decline in physical and mental function. Ways to maintain physical function include the following:

  • Appropriate wheelchair seating and posture
  • Assume various positions out of the wheelchair
  • Use a wheelchair when fatigued and when walking is difficult
  • Regular and appropriate exercise, including stretching exercises and exercises to maintain flexibility in joints
  • Maintain ideal weight
  • Have regular medical check-ups
  • Avoid sustained mental stress
  • Carefully consider proposed surgery
  • Plan for appropriate rehabilitation after surgery

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 01 Jan 2000

Last Modified: 03 Sep 2015