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What is Spasticity?

Spasticity is a condition characterized by abnormal muscle tightness due to prolonged muscle contraction. The condition commonly involves the leg muscles; however, any muscle can be affected. Spasticity can be painful, disfiguring, and disabling.

Causes of Spasticity

Spasticity is caused due to damage to the motor nerves, spinal cord, or brain and is seen in people with neurological problems such as:

  • Traumatic spine or brain injury
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Stroke

Symptoms of Spasticity

Some of the common symptoms of spasticity include:

  • Increased muscle tone and muscle contracture
  • Involuntary movements
  • Abnormal posture
  • Bone and joint deformity

Diagnosis of Spasticity

Diagnosis of the spasticity process will be based on a comprehensive medical history, physical examination including analysis of posture, movement control, strength, coordination, and endurance. Tests may be ordered such as an electromyography to study nerve conduction velocity and MRI to visualize pathologic changes in the spine and head.

Treatment of Spasticity

Treatment of spasticity will depend on the underlying cause for the condition, the severity of the condition, and patient’s goals. A combination of the following treatment options may be recommended:

  • Physical Therapy: Special stretching exercises may be recommended to maintain flexibility and range of motion, and to prevent muscle shortening or tightening.
  • Oral Medications: Skeletal muscle relaxants and anticonvulsants may be prescribed to help relax the muscles.
  • Injections: Botox injections into the muscles may be prescribed to decrease muscle rigidity.
  • Intrathecal Therapy: This involves the injection of medication into the spinal fluid using a pump and catheter system for better control of symptoms.
  • Orthopedic Surgery: This involves surgical procedures to treat the affected muscles, bones, and connective tissue.
  • Neurosurgery: This involves surgical procedures to treat the affected nerves, spinal cord, and brain.