Medications for Children With Cerebral Palsy

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child in bed being given medicationCerebral palsy affects each child differently, but early treatment can help improve function and quality of life. Treatment typically includes a mixture of environmental modifications, therapy, surgical procedures, and medications.

Medications commonly used to treat cerebral palsy in children include anticholinergics, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, antispastics, and anti-inflammatories. However, due to the concerns associated with long-term prescription drug use in children, therapy is used to limit the reliance on medication.


Anticholinergics treat tremors, spasms, muscle stiffness, drooling, and spastic conditions in the digestive tract. They work by blocking the neurotransmitter that causes muscles to move. The side effects of anticholinergics can include dry mouth, constipation, and blurred vision. To limit these effects, anticholinergics are not generally prescribed with antihistamines used to treat allergies.

Examples of anticholinergics frequently prescribed to children with cerebral palsy include:

  • Benztropine mesylate (Cogentin)
  • Carbidopa-levodopa (Sinemet)
  • Glycopyrrolate (Robinul)
  • Procyclidine hydrochloride (Kemadrin)
  • Trihexyphenidyl hydrochloride (Artane)


Anticonvulsants reduce or prevent seizure activity, which affects up to 50% of children with cerebral palsy. They work by reducing excessive stimulation in the brain without causing drowsiness or impairing breathing. Children process anticonvulsants faster than adults, and individuals can respond differently to different types of medication. This means trial and error are often involved in finding the appropriate dosage.

Examples of anticonvulsants frequently prescribed to children with cerebral palsy include:

  • Gabapentin (Neurontin)
  • Lamotrigine (Lamictal)
  • Oxcarbazepine (Trileptal)
  • Topiramate (Topamax)
  • Zonisamide (Zonegran)


Antidepressants treat depression and anxiety, although they can sometimes reduce seizure activity as well. Chronic pain, feelings of powerlessness, social isolation, and perceived limitations are risk factors for developing depression. Although antidepressants play a vital role in promoting the mental health of children with cerebral palsy, they are not a quick fix. Support groups and individual psychotherapy are most often recommended as well.

Examples of antidepressants frequently prescribed to children with cerebral palsy include:

  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)


Antispastics work by relaxing contracted, overactive, or stiff muscles.  They are used to reduce tremors and control spasticity because they are easy to administer and non-invasive. This allows the patient to delay surgery while improving responsiveness to other therapies. Muscles that remain tight over time can result in contracture, which bends the joints into rigid and fixed positions. This can lead to chronic pain as well as reduced mobility.

Examples of antispastics frequently prescribed to children with cerebral palsy include:

  • Botulinum toxin (Botox)
  • Cyclobenzadrine (Flexeril)
  • Dantrolene (Dantrium)
  • Diazepam (Valium)
  • Tizanidine (Zanaflex)


Anti-inflammatories help with pain management by reducing inflammation. Children with cerebral palsy can have pain related to their associated medical conditions, physical therapy to expand range of motion, or the post-operative healing from various surgical procedures. Pain management is considered a vital part of cerebral palsy treatment. When a child is dealing with chronic pain, it becomes difficult to learn, play, and comply with the treatment recommendations that will improve his or her long-term prognosis.

Pain medication for children with cerebral palsy typically falls into one of the following categories:

  • Aspirin
  • Corticosteroids
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) 
  • Steroids 

How Gray & White Law Can Help

Understanding what medications your child may be prescribed can help you learn to care appropriately for him or her at home. However, these medications can be expensive—even when you have access to comprehensive health insurance coverage for your family.

Cerebral palsy can occur naturally but is often the result of a birth injury or negligent prenatal care. If you believe your son or daughter’s cerebral palsy is the result of medical malpractice, the cerebral palsy lawyers at Gray & White Law can help you get the compensation you need to manage your child’s condition. This includes funds for past and future medical expenses, loss of earning potential, and pain and suffering.

Children with cerebral palsy require lifelong care, and your child deserves the best possible quality of life despite his or her condition. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation to discuss your legal options.

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