Spasticity

Spasticity is a condition in which certain muscles contract continuously. This causes stiffness or tightness of the muscles. It may interfere with movement, speech, and manner of walking.

CAUSES

This condition is usually caused by damage to the portion of the brain or spinal cord that controls voluntary movement. It may occur in association with:

  • Spinal cord injury.

  • Multiple sclerosis.

  • Cerebral palsy.

  • Brain damage due to lack of oxygen.

  • Brain trauma.

  • Severe head injury.

  • Metabolic diseases such as:

  • Adrenoleukodystrophy.

  • ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease).

  • Phenylketonuria.

SYMPTOMS

  • Increased muscle tone (hypertonicity).

  • A series of rapid muscle contractions (clonus).

  • Exaggerated deep tendon reflexes.

  • Muscle spasms.

  • Involuntary crossing of the legs (scissoring).

  • Fixed joints.

The degree of spasticity varies. It ranges from mild muscle stiffness to severe, painful, and uncontrollable muscle spasms. It can interfere with rehabilitation in patients with certain disorders. It often interferes with daily activities.

TREATMENT

Treatment may include:

  • Medications.

  • Physical therapy regimens. They may include muscle stretching and range of motion exercises. These help prevent shrinkage or shortening of muscles. They also help reduce the severity of symptoms.

  • Surgery. This may be recommended for tendon release or to sever the nerve-muscle pathway.

PROGNOSIS

The outcome for those with spasticity depends on:

  • Severity of the spasticity.

  • Associated disorder(s).