Ageing and cerebral palsy

People with cerebral palsy (CP) age in the same way as non-disabled people.

Problems people with CP report as they get older

As you get older, the wear and tear of living with CP can begin to cause other physical difficulties.

Some long-term effects of ageing and CP can include:

  • increased levels of pain and discomfort
  • osteoarthritis (pain and stiffness in the joints)
  • increase in spasms
  • increase in contractures (shortening of muscles)
  • tight muscles
  • digestion problems
  • new or increased back pain
  • incontinence

There are various reasons why people with CP can experience greater physical difficulties in later life.

Poor wheelchair seating and posture

If you have inadequate seating support, this can make spinal problems worse. This could lead to pain and discomfort or sometimes loss of function in your limbs.

Lack of exercise

Exercise is important to keep you moving. If your muscles tighten too much, this can lead to contractures.

Cerebral palsy and physiotherapy

Exercising from home

Taking part in disability sport

Carrying on walking

Carrying on walking when you are having difficulties may cause long-term problems. This can lead to arthritis in your joints. It can also cause back pain, as your other muscles try to compensate for awkward movements.

Physical exhaustion

Many people with CP push themselves to their physical limit. Lack of rest can lead to a decline in your physical and mental function.

Cerebral palsy fatigue and tiredness

Recovery after injury or illness

Recovery after an injury or illness can take much longer as you get older.

Inappropriate orthopaedic surgery

Surgery can help prevent spinal irregularities and contractures. Check that surgeons have specialist knowledge of CP before agreeing to any procedure.

Last reviewed by Scope on: 19/06/2023

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