Some medical conditions seem similar to one another because they share key characteristics. This is true of muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy, which can both lead to abnormal muscle tone, as well as issues with balance and posture.

While these symptoms are aligned, there are important differences to note between the two. Today, we’re taking a closer look at muscular dystrophy vs cerebral palsy and the distinctions that set them apart.

What Is Muscular Dystrophy? 

Muscular dystrophy is a group of diseases that causes muscles to progressively weaken due to a loss of muscle tissue. In most cases, it will continue to worsen over time, decreasing the individual’s overall mobility and making everyday tasks more difficult.

This condition is normally caused by a genetic mutation. The mutated genes prevent the body from producing a protein called dystrophin, which it needs to strengthen muscle fibers and create healthy muscle mass. In some cases, people with muscular dystrophy can also develop secondary conditions, such as scoliosis, unnatural heart rhythm, or a disease of the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy).


Muscle weakness is the most recognizable and prominent sign of this condition. Other symptoms can vary based on the type of muscular dystrophy the individual has. The most common kind is called Duchenne muscular dystrophy, with symptoms that include:


There is currently no cure for this condition. However, some muscular dystrophy treatments can help improve the individual’s quality of life. This includes physical therapy, along with some medications, such as corticosteroids.

What Is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a comprehensive term used to describe a group of neurological conditions that affect a person’s posture and movement. The word “cerebral” relates to the brain, while “palsy” means a loss or impairment of motor function.

People with this condition experience some injury to their brains either before, during, or shortly after birth. Some of the most common causes include:

These disorders appear in infancy or early childhood, permanently affecting the individual’s ability to move their body, coordinate their muscles, and maintain posture and balance.


Individuals with cerebral palsy will exhibit problems with posture and movement. The specific effects of this condition can vary from person to person based on the part of the brain that’s affected and can change over time.

Cerebral palsy symptoms can range from mild to severe, involving partial paralysis in some cases.


There is no cure for this condition, but targeted treatments can make cerebral palsy management possible. Some of the most common approaches include:

Muscular Dystrophy vs Cerebral Palsy: How Are They the Same?

First, let’s explore a few of the ways muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy are alike. Some of the most notable similarities they share include:

These similarities help explain why these terms are often used interchangeably, although that classification is incorrect.

How Are They Different?

Muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy differ in a few important ways, including their classification, associated symptoms, and prognosis. Let’s take a closer look.


Cerebral palsy is classified as a neurological disorder. Conversely, muscular dystrophy is considered a genetic or neuromuscular disorder.

While some genetic factors can lead to the development of cerebral palsy, there isn’t one single gene associated with the condition.

Associated Symptoms

As detailed above, each condition has its own set of symptoms that doctors can use to identify it. Some of these symptoms overlap, such as growth delays and a lack of muscle control, strength, and coordination.

However, there are others that we can attribute to one condition but not the other. For instance, muscular dystrophy primarily affects a person’s movement and growth, while cerebral palsy can affect nearly every aspect of their life. In addition to muscle weakness and incoordination, they may also experience difficulty with speech, learning, hearing, and cognition.


The prognosis (expected outcome) of cerebral palsy is different from that of muscular dystrophy. The severity of this condition depends largely on how severely the brain was injured. As this injury remains permanent over time, cerebral palsy doesn’t tend to worsen with age.

On the other hand, muscular dystrophy can get progressively more severe over time. For some people, this progression is very slow. For others, it’s much quicker. This is especially the case with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which tends to mostly affect boys.

This type of muscular dystrophy can render individuals unable to walk by the time they turn 12. In adulthood, they may need a respirator to help them breathe.

Learn More About Our Advanced Neurological Treatments

While they do share some aspects in common, there are many differences that distinguish muscular dystrophy vs cerebral palsy. If you believe your child or loved one is suffering from either of these conditions, prompt medical intervention is necessary.

At Neurocare of Nevada, Dr. Gobinder Chopra is skilled and experienced in treating both of these conditions, as well as a range of other neurological diseases and disorders. As a triple board-certified neurologist, Dr. Chopra understands how to deliver excellent patient care and has successfully served hundreds of patients across the valley.

To learn more about the services we offer or schedule an appointment, contact us today.