Spasticity is a side effect of paralysis that varies from mild muscle stiffness to severe, uncontrollable leg movements. Generally, doctors now call conditions of extreme muscle tension spastic hypertonia (SH). It may occur in association with spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, or brain trauma.

Symptoms of spasticity may include increased muscle tone, rapid muscle contractions, exaggerated deep tendon reflexes, muscle spasms, scissoring (involuntary crossing of the legs) and fixed joints.

When an individual is first injured, muscles are weak and flexible because of what's called spinal shock: the body's reflexes are absent below the level of injury; this condition usually lasts for a few weeks or several months. Once the spinal shock is over, reflex activity returns.

What causes spasticity in paralysis?

Spasticity is usually caused by damage to the portion of the brain or spinal cord that controls voluntary movement.

Since the normal flow of nerve messages to below the level of injury is interrupted, those messages may not reach the reflex control center of the brain. The spinal cord then attempts to moderate the body's response.

The spinal cord is not as efficient as the brain, so the signals that are sent back to the site of the sensation are often over-exaggerated in an overactive muscle response or spastic hypertonia: an uncontrollable “jerking” movement, stiffening or strengthening of muscles, shock- contractions of a muscle or group of muscles, and abnormal tone in the muscles.

Most individuals living with spinal cord injury have some spasms. Persons with cervical injuries and those with incomplete injuries are more ly than those with paraplegia and/or complete injuries to experience spasticity.The most common muscles that spasm are those that bend the elbow (flexor) or extend the leg (extensor). These reflexes usually occur as a result of an automatic response to painful sensations.

While spasticity can interfere with rehabilitation or daily living activities, it is not always a bad thing. Some people use their spasms for function, to empty their bladders, to transfer or to dress.

Others use SH to keep their muscles toned and improve circulation. It may also help maintain bone strength.

In a large Swedish study of people with SCI, 68% had spasticity but less than half of those said that their spasticity was a significant problem that reduced activities of daily living or caused pain.

Treating and managing spasticity

A change in a person's spasticity is something to pay attention to. For example, increased tone could be the result of a cyst or cavity forming in the spinal cord (post-traumatic syringomyelia). Untreated, cysts can lead to further loss of function. Problems outside your nervous system, such as bladder infections or skin sores, can increase spasticity.

Treatment for spasticity usually includes medications such as baclofen, diazepam or zanaflex. Some people with severe spasms utilize refillable baclofen pumps, which are small, surgically implanted reservoirs that apply the drug directly to the area of spinal cord dysfunction. This allows for a higher concentration of drug without the usual mind-dulling side effects of a high oral dosage.

Physical therapy, including muscle stretching, range of motion exercises, and other physical therapy regimens, can help prevent joint contractures (shrinkage or shortening of a muscle) and reduce the severity of symptoms.

Proper posture and positioning are important for people in wheelchairs and those at bed rest to reduce spasms. Orthotics, such as ankle-foot braces, are sometimes used to limit spasticity. Application of cold (cryotherapy) to an affected area can also calm muscle activity.

For many years doctors have used phenol nerve blocks to deaden nerves that cause spasticity. Lately, a better but more expensive nerve block, botulinum toxin (Botox), has become a popular treatment for spasms. An application of Botox lasts about three to six months; however, the body builds antibodies to the drug, reducing its effectiveness over time.

Sometimes, surgery is recommended for tendon release or to sever the nerve-muscle pathway in children with cerebral palsy. Selective dorsal rhizotomy may be considered if spasms interfere with sitting, bathing or general caretaking.

Spasticity comes with the territory for many people who are paralyzed. Treatment strategy should be one's function:

  • Is the spasticity keeping you from certain activities?
  • Are there safety risks, such as losing control while driving your power chair or car?
  • Are spasticity drugs worse than the symptoms, affecting concentration or energy?

Check with your physician to discuss your options.

Resources on spasticity

For more information on how to manage spasticity and additional resources from trusted Reeve Foundation sources, please download our fact sheet on spasticity and check out our repository of fact sheets on hundreds of topics ranging from aging with a spinal cord injury to secondary complications of paralysis. Download our booklet on Managing Spasticity.

Sources: The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, United Cerebral Palsy Association, The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, Craig Hospital


What is Spasticity? (with pictures)


Article Details

  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 10 July 2019
  • Copyright Protected: 2003-2019 Conjecture Corporation

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Spasticity is a disorder of the central nervous system which is characterized by overactive muscles. In a patient with spasticity, certain muscles continually contract, and they tighten up far more than they would normally.

The condition can cause problems with speech, walking, and fine motor tasks, and it is associated with serious complications the dislocation of limbs.

For patients, spasticity can be frustrating, painful, and sometimes humiliating.

This condition is usually associated with another medical disorder such as multiple sclerosis, brain trauma, or cerebral palsy. A wide variety of muscle groups can be involved.

In all cases, spasticity involves a confusion in the neurons which transmit information from the brain to the muscles; instead of firing normally, these neurons switch into hyperdrive, telling the muscles to tense up and keep tensing.

During a spastic episode, the patient may be unable to relax, bend, or stretch, and he or she may be in significant pain.

On a daily basis, spasticity is managed with massage and a series of stretches which are designed to promote relaxation of the involved muscles.

Yoga and other movement disciplines which promote flexibility may also be used in an attempt to keep the muscles as relaxed as possible.

Medications may also be offered to help manage the spasticity, with drugs such as muscle relaxers being used to keep the patient's muscles from tightening up too much.

In some cases, surgical techniques may be utilized to cope with spasticity. Neurosurgery can target the specific areas of the brain involved, although this surgery is accompanied with some definite risks which should be considered.

Patients with severe spasticity may be offered surgeries in which the connection between the brain and the muscles involved is terminated.

Other forms of therapy may also be available, depending on what underlying condition is causing the spasticity.

A number of things appear to increase spasticity. Stimuli in particular seem to increase the severity and frequency of muscle contractions, and these stimuli can vary from skin infections which upset the balance of the body to emotionally difficult conversations.

Exercise, exhaustion, and stress can all contribute to spasticity and muscle contractions, and sometimes stress about the possibility of spasticity can bring on a spastic attack.

For example, a patient might be afraid of taking a walk with a friend for fear that a spastic episode will occur, and the stress over the walk may cause the patient's muscles to start contracting.


anon941453 Post 5Please, please, please take medical grade cannabis. It will reduce spasticity 99 percent.
lighth0se33 Post 4@wavy58 – My mother had a stroke, and her physical therapy has done wonders to reduce her spastic episodes. She also takes a helpful drug that doesn’t degrade the strength of her muscles.
Every time she visits her therapist, she goes through a range of exercises. She also has to do these exercises at home three times daily. These movements force her to use all her muscle groups.
The therapist also helps her with stretching. Her tightest muscles need to be stretched gently. The therapist also recommended that she move her body parts around to different positions throughout the day, because staying in one place too long can bring on an episode.
wavy58 Post 3My grandmother suffered a stroke last year, and she had been dealing with spasticity ever since. Her doctor prescribed her some muscle relaxers, but I feel there has to be something we can do to improve her situation. After all, it can’t be good for her muscles to keep drugging them into relaxation.
Has anyone here ever had any experience with stroke spasticity? I am hoping someone can tell me about some type of therapy or drug that will be effective at correcting the situation, rather than just sedating her tense muscles. This feels it should be a temporary fix.
kylee07drg Post 2I have a friend with multiple sclerosis, and he usually only has episodes of spasticity when he is very stressed out. He has already quit his job and gotten on disability, so that eliminated a major source of stress. He doesn’t have as many episodes as he did before.
He sometimes tenses up painfully when he thinks about the inevitable progression of his disease. He started going to a support group, where he could talk about these issues with other people who have them.
Talking about it with those who understand has further reduced his anxiety and the frequency of his spastic episodes. His new friends are helpful, because I can listen, but I can’t say I know how he feels.
orangey03 Post 1My best friend in high school had spasticity. She had looked forward to the prom all her life, but she was scared to go once she found out about her condition.
She had experienced episodes at school before, and while most of the kids were sympathetic, a few made fun of her. She had an intense fear of embarrassment, and she could just envision herself on the dance floor with her muscles suddenly going haywire.
In spite of her fear, she really wanted to go, so we went dress shopping together. While she was in the dressing room, she had an episode. She said that once she saw herself in the mirror in a prom dress, the fear set in, and her muscles started tensing up. This one was painful, and she had to take a muscle relaxer while I drove her home.


Что такое, причины возникновения спастичности, недопущение и лечение


Снять спастику после инсульта оказалось чрезвычайно трудно. Дело в возникающем противоречии. Мы упёрто восстанавливали силу и выносливость. Делали это с помощью специальных упражнений с высокой нагрузкой и кучей повторений.

Для лечения спастики это помеха и вред. При снятии спастики нужен расслабляющий массаж и легкие движения в упражнениях. Что бы продолжить восстановление после инсульта надо проводить взаимоисключающие занятия. Но мы придумали простое решение. Сделать две группы занятий.

Первая: для восстановления силы и выносливости. Вторая для лечения спастики, восстановления равновесия и координации. Решение оказалось очень правильным. Правда мы допёрли до него не сразу и некоторое время делали упражнения для снятия спастики вместе с упражнениями на силу и выносливость. Вовремя заметили, что от активных упражнений спастика усиливается.

Что из себя представляет спастика

Проявляется спастика в скованности. Невозможно сделать быстрое или резкое движение. Постоянно напряженные мышцы блокируют свободу. Чувство словно ты сильно заржавевший Терминатор))).
Напряжение приводит к скорой утомляемости.

Восстановление после инсульта может быть фактически заблокировано спастикой. Трудно восстанавливать навыки, когда конечности словно связаны резинками и всегда находятся в напряженном, неестественном положении. Для снятия спастики после инсульта мы применяем элементарные упражнения. Главное делать их легко, без напряжения.

Спастика мышц — это непроизвольное их сокращение, судороги или спазм вследствие нарушения проводимости нервных импульсов после травмы спинного и головного мозга.

Чаще это состояние проявляется ночью, но так же может существенно затруднить жизнь днем.

Механизм образования спастичности

Основной причиной формирования судорог специалисты называют дисбаланс тормозного влияния двигательных элементов коры головного на клетки в структуре спинного мозга.

Закономерным итогом становится растормаживание тонического рефлекса – формируется мышечная спастика в пораженных травмой конечностях человека.

В нормальном состоянии человеку не приходиться задумываться об очередности производимых в мышцах явлениях: какие из них сначала требуется сократить, затем расслабить – наш мозг довел подобную деятельность до автоматизма.

После инсульта или травмы происходит гибель клеточных элементов, несущих ответственность за специальные тормозящие импульсы в двигательных нейронах головного и спинного мозга. Рефлекторная дуга: конечность – спинной мозг – головной мозг перестает быть единой системой – происходит нарушение координации.

Спазмы формируются далеко не сразу – на протяжении недель, и даже месяцев. Приводит к значительным вторичным изменениям в мышцах и суставах – усиливает отрицательное воздействие парезов на двигательную систему.

Степень выраженности спастики конечностей

Первые признаки начала формирования спастики мышц наблюдаются в первые же сутки после травмы, а в последующем имеют тенденцию к усилению.

Изменяться степень выраженности может под неблагоприятным воздействием негативных факторов, к примеру:

  • при изменении эмоциональной настроенности – наличии у человека склонности к депрессивным состояниям;
  • при изменении погодных условий – колебание параметров температуры либо освещенности;
  • при чрезмерной физической перегрузке, вызванной ранней физической активностью пострадавшего, вопреки рекомендациям врача.

При усилении интенсивности нагрузки на мышечные волокна в конечностях, происходит затруднение их двигательной активности, наблюдаются симптомы болевых ощущений в них, различной степени выраженности.

По степени выраженности спастики различают следующие формы:

  1. Легкая спастичность мышц: проявляется мышечным перенапряжением, а также сопротивлением пассивному и активному движению.
  2. Умеренная спастика – определяется на протяжении периода движения, но при этом весьма его не затрудняет.
  3. Выраженная: своим сопротивлением весьма затрудняет двигательную функцию. Она позволяет производить лишь минимум требуемого объема движения, убрать ее сложно.

Спастика ног в легкой форме проявляется быстрой утомляемостью мышц голеней, ощущение «забитости мышц», от физической деятельности, ходить при этом легче становится на каблуке, затем становится затруднительно потянуть к себе пальцы ног и разогнуть ее в колене.

В тяжелой форме спазма: одна или две ноги фиксируются в согнутом в коленном или тазобедренном суставах, а стопа выворачивается внутрь или наружу. При хождении без специальной обуви или фиксаторе стопы, могут возникнуть деформации или контрактуры.

Проявление спастике рук в легкой форме: затруднено разгибание
пальцев и выпрямление руки в локтевом суставе, признаком тяжелой формы является согнутые в локтевом и плечевом суставах, кисть при этом сжата в кулак.

Если спастика присутствует долгое время без лечения, развивается контрактура, то есть сустав фиксируется не в физиологическом для организма состоянии.

В дальнейшем же, спазм будет иметь лишь отрицательное влияние на проведение восстановительных мероприятий. Помимо конечностей, будет ухудшать восстановление и в позвоночнике: повышение тонуса мышц вызывает болевые ощущения в спине – симптомы вертеброгенного радикулита.

Специалисты отмечают: чем раньше было начато адекватное лечение современными препаратами, а также, чем меньше выраженность спастики– тем лучше будет прогноз реабилитационных мероприятий.

Даже, если симптомы значительно выражены, а лечение судорог в силу определенных причин начались в более поздний временной промежуток – уменьшение спастики существенно улучшает общее самочувствие.

Как нужно лечить спастику разными методами

Лечение гипертонуса рекомендуется в том случае, если спастика понижает параметр деятельности человека, либо же сопровождается упорными болевыми проявлениями.

Наиболее важным требованием, предъявляемым к лечению, является его максимально возможная безболезненность, поскольку боль многократно усиливается спастикой.

Важным моментом является и контроль за деятельностью тазовых органов – предупреждение воспалительных проявлений в них, а также своевременно проводить мероприятия по предупреждению возникновения контрактур и пролежней.

Комплекс современного лечения по избавлению от спастики:

Комплекс лечения подбирается только индивидуально, в прямой зависимости от локализации очага и степени выраженности спастики. Необходимо учитывать и технические возможности медицинского учреждения.

Спастика после инсульта или травмы головного мозга обязательно требует медикаментозного воздействия. Лечение должно проводиться поэтапно – с постепенным наращиванием лечебной дозы медикаментов, возможно заменой препарата.

На сегодняшний день востребованы две подгруппы:

  1. Препараты с центральным механизмом воздействия на негативный очаг – торможение рефлекса.
  2. Препараты периферического воздействия – существенно снижают рефлекс растяжения на уровне элементов спинного мозга: миорелаксанты.

Как и у иных подгрупп даже самых современных препаратов, у вышеперечисленных имеют свои противопоказания, поэтому их назначением должен заниматься только высококвалифицированный специалист невролог.

Ортезирование и гипс

Лечение спастики длительной укладкой конечностей человека, в такое положение, когда мышцы оптимально растянуты, а тоническая рефлекторная активность уменьшена, именуется специалистами ортезированием. Оно способствует снижению гипертонуса в конечностях – патологические симптомы удается многократно уменьшить.

При выраженной спастике рекомендуется даже наложение специальной гипсовой лангеты либо шины – для предотвращения развития контрактуры. Именно шина фиксирует конечность в наиболее приемлемом положении — при котором мышечные волокна располагаются в растянутом положении.

Лечение ортезированием проводится от одного до двух часов, в прямой зависимости от ощущений человека – при усилении болевых ощущений, процедуру заканчивают.

Физиотерапия при скованности мышц

  • локальное использование холода – способствует понижению чрезмерных рефлексов и максимальному увеличению объема движений, улучшению деятельности мышц;
  • локальное использование тепла – отлично способствует временному понижению тонуса. осуществляется при помощи озокеритовых или парафиновых аппликаций, курс – не менее двадцати процедур;
  • электростимуляция нервных окончаний – превосходная методика, позволяющая добиться максимального ответа в пораженных участках, продолжительность лечебного курса назначается специалистом.

Лфк разработка

Лечение с помощью упражнений, направленных на оптимальное расслабление волокон в мышцах – давно проверенный, успевший себя отлично зарекомендовать реабилитационный прием лечения спастики.

Дозированное лечебное растягивание позволяет на пару часов понизить их тонус, максимально увеличить объем движений в пораженных конечностях.

Кинезиотерапевт знает, что снижение тонуса будет наблюдаться лишь определенное время а потому его необходимо эффективно использовать для проведения иных комплексных упражнений, которые были затруднены из-за спастики.

Хирургическое вмешательство определяется специалистом по строго индивидуальным показаниям, когда консервативные методики уже исчерпали себя, а выраженной положительной динамики не наблюдается.

Снять спастику задача важная. Она сильно мешает в повседневной жизни, отнимает силы и сковывает движения. Это мешает восстанавливать утраченные навыки и выносливость. Чтобы полноценно проводить восстановление после инсульта, нужно обязательно вылечить спастику. Мы это выполняем параллельно с остальными задачами.

При комплексном подходе и начале лечебных мероприятий на возможно более раннем этапе, медикаментозного лечения – нормализация мышечного тонуса способствует максимальному ускорению восстановления больного.

В лечении хорошо себя показали такие методы как, миостимуляция,ботокс, конечно лечебная гимнастика, медицинские препараты(мидокалм, баклофен) и щадящая хирургия.


Intrathecal Baclofen (ITB)

In severe cases of spasticity, baclofen can be administered through a pump that has been surgically implanted in the patient’s abdomen. By delivering baclofen directly to the spinal fluid, a much more powerful reduction in spasticity and pain can be achieved, with fewer side effects. ITB has been found to be extremely effective in treating spasticity in the lower and upper extremities.

Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR)

In SDR, the neurosurgeon cuts selective nerve roots (rhizotomy), the nerve fibers located just outside the back bone (spinal column) that send sensory messages from the muscles to the spinal cord. SDR is used to treat severe spasticity of the legs that interferes with movement or positioning.

By cutting only the sensory nerve rootlets causing the spasticity, muscle stiffness is decreased, while other functions remain intact. Decreasing spasticity can improve mobility and function and help prevent severe muscle scarring (contractures), as well as joint and bone deformities. It is utilized most effectively in patients with CP who meet specific criteria.

Individuals with the following criteria are not candidates for SDR:

  • Patients who have experienced meningitis, congenital brain infection, congenital hydrocephalus unrelated to premature birth, head trauma or familial disease
  • Patients who have mixed CP with predominant rigidity or dystonia, significant athetosis or ataxia
  • Patients with severe scoliosis
  • Patients who will not make functional gains after surgery

The benefits of surgery should always be weighed carefully against its risks. Randomized, controlled clinical trials have demonstrated that a large percentage of CP patients report significant reduction in spasticity and improved function after surgery. However, surgery is not an option for all cases of spasticity.

The AANS does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products or physicians referenced in these patient fact sheets.

This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice.

Anyone seeking specific neurosurgical advice or assistance should consult his or her neurosurgeon, or locate one in your area through the AANS’ Find a Board-certified Neurosurgeon online tool.


The Best Spasticity Treatment to Relieve Stiff Muscles after Stroke (Plus 7 Extra Tips)


Spasticity treatment has less to do with your muscles and more to do with your brain.

Curious, right? Although the problem appears to be one place, the answer lies somewhere else.

To help you reverse this condition the way expert therapists would, we’ll teach you the best stroke treatment for spasticity.

Plus, you’ll learn how to reduce severe spasticity in paralyzed muscles at the end.

Get ready to loosen up those tight, spastic muscles for good!

The Little Known Cause of Spasticity After Stroke

Spasticity is caused by miscommunication from your brain, not your muscles.

Normally your muscles are in constant communication with your brain about how much tension they’re feeling, and the brain has to constantly monitor this tension to prevent tearing.

So your brain continuously sends out messages telling your muscles when to contract and relax.

When a stroke damages part of the brain responsible for muscle control, this communication is thrown off.

The damaged part of your brain no longer receives the messages that your muscles are trying to send, and as a result, your brain no longer tells them when to contract or relax.

So, your muscles keep themselves in a constant state of contraction in order to protect themselves.

This is how spasticity is created. Which begs the question: how can you fix it?

Why Botox Is Only a Temporary Spasticity Treatment

One way to reduce spasticity after stroke is by using “nerve block” drugs Botox.

Botox blocks the release of chemicals that signal your muscles to tighten, which makes your muscles relax.

We have heard many stroke survivors rave about the muscle-relaxing benefits of Botox.

However, without getting your brain on board, Botox merely addresses the symptom of spasticity, not the real problem.

This means that once the Botox wears away, the problem will come back.

So how can you make spasticity after stroke go away for good?

This is where neuroplasticity and therapeutic exercise comes into play.

Why Exercise Is the Best Spasticity Treatment

The key to reversing spasticity permanently is by rewiring the brain through neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity helps dedicate more brain cells to controlling your affected limbs.

In order for this rewiring to occur, you have to repeat effective rehab exercises over and over and over. The more you practice spasticity exercises, the more your spasticity will subside.

It’s paving new pathways in the brain. The more you reinforce those new pathways, the more your brain-muscle communication improves, and your spasticity goes away as a result!

We will discuss the various types of spasticity exercise next.

Bonus: Download our free Stroke Rehab Exercises ebook. (Link will open a pop-up that will not interrupt your reading.)

Types of Exercise to Treat Spasticity after Stroke

Some spasticity is minor (muscle tension) while other spasticity is severe (paralysis).

Different levels of spasticity require different types of exercise.

Here are 3 ways to treat spasticity with exercise (then we’ll share 4 more steps for post-stroke paralysis):

1. Range of Motion Exercise

When you first start to treat spasticity, it’s ly that your muscles will be very stiff. To help loosen them up, start with range of motion exercises this wrist stretch from:

Be sure to emphasize high repetition so that you can activate neuroplasticity and start to loosen up the spasticity.

2. Active Stroke Spasticity Exercises

If you have some movement in your spastic muscles, then active rehabilitation exercise will be your ticket to success. A great stroke spasticity exercise for legs is knee extensions:

Again, the more reps you do, the more your brain will rewire itself and reduce your spasticity.

You’ll recover from stroke quickly this way because it’s the only way to retrain your brain to relax your spastic muscles – permanently.

3. Combining Exercise with Electrical Stimulation

Another great way to boost your results from your stroke exercises is by combining it with electrical stimulation.

This involves using an e-stim machine to apply electric current to your affected muscles. This helps “wake up” your brain through the stimulation.

Research shows that combining electrical stimulation with stroke rehab exercise leads to better results.

How to Treat Spasticity in Paralyzed Muscles

Sometimes muscles become so stiff with spasticity that they become paralyzed.

The following methods can help reduce spasticity in paralyzed muscles:

4. Passive Exercise

When you can’t move your muscles after stroke, you can begin the neuroplastic rewiring process through passive exercise.

This simply means assisting your affected muscles through each movement – either with the help of a caregiver or by using your non-affected side.

Although you aren’t “doing it yourself,” passive movement still helps activate neuroplasticity. As you begin to regain movement, you can graduate to active exercises.

5. Botox and Medication

While Botox only provides temporary results, it’s very useful for individuals who suffer from severe spasticity.

Botox can actually be used to create a window of opportunity to do your rehab exercise — otherwise sever spasticity will prevent you from doing therapeutic exercises.

Remember: you need to get your brain on board in order for your results to stick. Botox alone won’t create lasting results, but repetitive rehab exercise will.

Aside from Botox, other medications used to treat spasticity are Diazepam (Valium), Baclofen (Lioresal), Dantrolene (Dantrium), Tizanidine (Zanaflex), Clonidine (Catapres).

Talk to your doctor to see if medication is a good option for you.

6. Mirror Therapy

Mirror therapy for stroke is a very special kind of therapy that involves “tricking’ your brain into believing its moving your affected hand by using a tabletop mirror.

Surprisingly, although your brain is very smart and cunning, this trick helps activate neuroplasticity and introduce movement into your affected, spastic hand!

Mirror therapy is mostly useful for upper extremities hand and arm rehab.

7. Mental Practice

Lastly, mental practice is a great way to boost neuroplasticity by simply visualizing yourself moving your spastic muscles.

Practicing your stroke exercises in your mind through visualization actually helps activate neuroplasticity.

Imagine boosting your results while lying in bed! Don’t skip this step – it’s easy and clinically proven to help.

Spasticity as a Surprising Sign of Recovery

And that’s a wrap!

You are now aware that spasticity is caused by miscommunication between your brain and your muscles…

And this should bring you tons hope that your spasticity is treatable because it means that your muscles are still trying to communicate with your brain!

Your body hasn’t given up, and neither should you.

There are tons of success stories of stroke survivors who regained more mobility than doctors predicted. Never give up hope.

Even if you have no movement in your spastic muscles, keep trying by focusing on activating neuroplasticity with high repetition.

Eventually, your spasticity will start to improve – for good!


What Causes Muscle Spasticity?

Medically reviewed by Judith Marcin, MD on October 21, 2016 — Written by Ann Pietrangelo

When your muscles contract, become stiff, or spasm involuntarily, it’s called spasticity. Spasticity can make it difficult to walk, move, or talk. It can be uncomfortable and painful at times. Spasticity occurs when the nerve impulses that control… Read More

When your muscles contract, become stiff, or spasm involuntarily, it’s called spasticity. Spasticity can make it difficult to walk, move, or talk. It can be uncomfortable and painful at times.

Spasticity occurs when the nerve impulses that control muscle movement are interrupted or damaged. A variety of conditions can cause this, including:

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, spasticity can have some benefit for people with very weak legs. The rigidity from spasticity can help them to stand or walk. For these people, the goal of treatment should be to relieve pain while maintaining the rigidity needed to function.

Prolonged spasticity can lead to:

  • frozen joints
  • pressure sores
  • an inability to function normally

Make an appointment with your doctor if you have spasticity with an unknown cause.

Stretching exercises can help relieve spasticity. Your doctor may recommend physical therapy or massage. Prescription medications for the condition include muscle relaxants, sedatives, and nerve blockers. Surgery is used in some cases.

Symptoms of spasticity

Episodes of spasticity can range from very mild to debilitating and painful. Signs and symptoms of spasticity include:

  • muscle tightness
  • joint stiffness
  • involuntary jerky movements
  • exaggeration of reflexes
  • unusual posture
  • abnormal positioning of fingers, wrists, arms, or shoulders
  • muscle spasms
  • involuntary crossing of the legs, called “scissoring” because the legs cross the tip of a pair of scissors
  • difficulty controlling the muscles used to speak
  • muscle contraction that limits your range of motion or prevents your joints from extending all the way
  • pain in the affected muscles and joints
  • back pain
  • difficulty moving

Spasticity can be triggered when you change position or move suddenly. Other spasm triggers include:

  • fatigue
  • stress
  • high humidity
  • extreme heat
  • extreme cold
  • infection
  • clothing that is too tight

Your ability to perform normal tasks can be affected if spasms become too frequent.

Causes of spasticity

The main cause of spasticity is damage to the nerve pathways that control the movement of muscles. This can be a symptom of a variety of conditions and diseases, including:

Treating spasticity

If spasticity is not properly managed, it can result in frozen joints and pressure sores on your skin. Prolonged episodes of it can lead to the inability to move your:

  • ankles
  • knees
  • hips
  • elbows
  • shoulders
  • wrists

This can affect your ability to move, walk, and function in a normal capacity.

When to seek treatment

Treatment will be the frequency and level of your spasticity, and the underlying condition that is causing it. Contact your doctor if:

  • you are experiencing spasticity for the first time and do not know the cause
  • your spasticity is getting more severe or is happening more frequently
  • your spasticity has changed considerably
  • you have a frozen joint
  • you have pressure sores or red skin
  • your level of discomfort or pain is increasing
  • you are finding it difficult to perform everyday tasks

Your doctor may suggest physical therapy or exercises you can do at home. In some cases, a cast or splint may be used to prevent your muscles from becoming too tight.

Medication for spasticity

Many medications are used to treat spasticity, including:

  • botulinum toxin: (injected directly into spastic muscles)
  • baclofen: (muscle relaxant)
  • diazepam: (sedative)
  • phenol: (nerve blocker)
  • tizanidine: (calms spasms and relaxes tight muscles)

Some of these drugs can cause uncomfortable side effects such as:

If you experience side effects, don’t stop taking medications on your own. Consult with your doctor.

Surgery may be recommended for tendon release or to sever the nerve-muscle pathway when medications and physical therapy don’t improve symptoms. Remain under a doctor’s care and receive regular monitoring for spasticity.

At-home care

Your doctor or physical therapist will ly recommend a variety of home-care treatments to help ease some of the symptoms of spasticity. These include:

  • Stretching exercises for spasticity and overall health; you may need someone to help with your exercises.
  • Avoiding extremely hot or cold temperatures.
  • Wearing loose-fitting clothing and avoid restrictive garments or braces.
  • Getting plenty of sleep.
  • Changing your position often, at least every two hours. This helps to avoid developing pressure sores if you use a wheelchair or stay in bed for long periods.

Medically reviewed by Judith Marcin, MD on October 21, 2016 — Written by Ann Pietrangelo

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This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose. Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.


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