Comparing Cerebral Palsy to Other Motor Disorders

Nervous system conditions that affect an individual’s movements are called “motor disorders.” They can result in increased voluntary or involuntary movements, as well as faster or slower movements (1). Many motor disorders can have similar signs and symptoms, even though they are caused by different underlying conditions or diseases.

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a movement disorder that is common in childhood and largely caused by problems occurring in the time surrounding birth, i.e. birth injuries (2). Due to their many apparent similarities, people struggle to differentiate CP from other common movement disorders.

Cerebral palsy vs. multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the brain and spinal cord wherein the immune system disrupts the communication systems of the brain by attacking the protective myelin sheath covering its nerve fibers (3). The disease can eventually cause permanent deterioration or damage of the nerves.

The symptoms of MS vary greatly from case to case: some people with severe MS are unable to walk without assistance, whereas some people have long periods of MS remission without any (or with very minor) symptoms.

Symptoms of MS will depend on the location of the nerves affected, and can include the following (3):

  • Impaired coordination
  • Unsteady gait
  • Tremors
  • Shocking sensations with certain neck movements
  • Weakness or numbness in specific limbs
  • Problems with bowel or bladder function
  • Problems with sexual function
  • Dizziness
  • Vision problems
  • Tingling or pain
  • Slurred speech

Cerebral palsy shares many of the symptoms of MS, and both affect the individual’s central nervous system. Neither of these conditions are curable. However, though there is no known cause of MS, CP is commonly caused by issues that occur during pregnancy, labor, or delivery. Another difference is that CP is often diagnosed in childhood, whereas MS is most commonly diagnosed between ages 20 and 50. Finally, while MS is progressive (gets worse over time), CP is non-progressive (2). 

Cerebral palsy vs. muscular dystrophy

Muscular dystrophy refers to a group of diseases that involve genetic mutations disrupting the formation of important muscle proteins. These diseases result in weakness and loss of muscle mass (4). They can affect children and adults.

Symptoms of muscular dystrophy include (4):

  • Progressive muscle weakness
  • Frequent falling
  • Difficulty changing positions
  • Large calf muscles
  • Impaired gait
  • Difficulties with movements

Both cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy involve muscle weakness and are not curable. Additionally, both CP and muscular dystrophy are associated with the following complications (4):

  • Difficulty walking
  • Contractures (shortening of the tendons or muscles around joints)
  • Difficulties swallowing
  • Scoliosis, or curved spine
  • Learning disabilities

They may look similar, but muscular dystrophy is caused by a genetic mutation that affects muscle proteins, and CP is commonly caused by a problem during pregnancy, birth, or shortly after birth.

Cerebral palsy vs. Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease is a nervous system disorder that affects a person’s movement. It occurs when certain nerve cells in the brain break down or die. Parkinson’s is a progressive condition wherein symptoms start mild and worsen over time. 

Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease vary greatly based on age and severity. They often affect one side of the body more than the other. These symptoms include (5):

  • Muscle stiffness
  • Changes in speech
  • Worsening fine motor skills
  • Impaired balance or posture
  • Tremors
  • Delayed movements

Like CP, Parkinson’s does not have a cure. As for causes, cerebral palsy can often be linked to a specific birth injury, while many cases of Parkinson’s are of unknown origin. Both genetic and environmental factors may play a role in the development of Parkinson’s (5). Additionally, the onset of Parkinson’s usually occurs later in life, with most people developing the disease at 60 years of age or older. CP is most commonly diagnosed during childhood.

Legal help for cerebral palsy

If your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, please contact our team of birth injury attorneys at ABC Law Centers: Birth Injury Lawyers (Reiter & Walsh, P.C.). For decades, we have been helping families whose children have cerebral palsy. We have numerous multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements that attest to our success, and we will fight to obtain the compensation you and your family deserve. We will evaluate your case to determine if your newborn suffered injuries due to the negligence of the physician or medical staff, and you never pay any money until we win your case.

“Reiter and Walsh goes above and beyond the norm in getting their clients the best possible results. Each client is treated with respect and compassion, and they are truly sensitive to what it means to help a family whose child has been injured.”

-Client review from 11/23/2015

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Related Resources


  1. (2017, October 19). Movement disorders. Retrieved from
  2. Cerebral Palsy Attorneys: Birth Injury Lawyers. Retrieved from
  3. (2019, April 19). Multiple sclerosis. Retrieved from
  4. (2018, February 6). Muscular dystrophy. Retrieved from
  5. (2018, June 30). Parkinson’s disease. Retrieved from