Definition

Spasticity is when muscles tighten without control.

Contraction of the Hand

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Causes

Signals travel from the brain through the spinal cord. They control the amount of tension in a muscle. Injury to the brain or spine disturbs the signals. This causes spasticity.

Risk Factors

The risk of this problem is higher in people who have damage to the brain or spine. This may be from:

Symptoms

Problems may range from tightness to strong spasms. A person may also have:

  • Stiffness that can make fine movements hard
  • Lack of muscle strength
  • Pain
  • A hard time using the muscles needed to move or communicate
  • Movements that cannot be controlled
  • Problems doing daily tasks

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on how you move. This may be enough to make the diagnosis.

Blood tests may be done.

Images may also be taken. This can be done with:

Nerve and muscle function may be tested. This can be done with electromyography/nerve conduction study.

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms and improve quality of life. Choices are:

  • Medicine to relax muscles
  • Physical therapy to improve strength and range of motion
  • Braces and other devices to provide support
  • Occupational therapy to learn new ways to do daily tasks

Marijuana may also be an option for people who live in certain states. It has been approved for some health problems, such as spasticity.

Some people may need surgery for severe spasticity if other methods do not help. The nerve that sends sensory messages from the muscles to the spine will be cut. It may help reduce the strength of muscle stiffness and spasm.

Prevention

There are no known guidelines to prevent this problem.

RESOURCES:

American Association of Neurological Surgeons
http://www.aans.org

Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation
https://www.christopherreeve.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Neurological Sciences Federation
http://www.cnsfederation.org

Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

REFERENCES:

Eckert MJ, Martin MJ. Trauma: Spinal Cord Injury. Surg Clin North Am. 2017 Oct;97(5):1031-1045.

Kaku M, Simpson DM. Spotlight on botulinum toxin and its potential in the treatment of stroke related spasticity. Drug Des Devel Ther. 2016:10:1085-99.

Spasticity. American Association of Neurological Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.aans.org/Patient%20Information/Conditions%20and%20Treatments/Spasticity.aspx. Accessed October 12, 2020.

Spasticity. Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation website. Available at: https://www.christopherreeve.org/living-with-paralysis/health/secondary-conditions/spasticity. Accessed October 12, 2020.

Spasticity. National Multiple Sclerosis Society website. Available at: http://www.nationalmssociety.org/Symptoms-Diagnosis/MS-Symptoms/Spasticity. Accessed October 12, 2020.

Spinal cord injury - chronic management. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/management/management-of-chronic-spinal-cord-injury. Accessed October 12, 2020.

7/20/2015 EBSCO DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillancehttps://www.dynamed.com/drug-review/medical-uses-of-cannabinoids: Whiting PF, Wolff RF, et al. Cannabinoids for medical use: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA. 2015;313(24):2456-2473.

Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Teresa Briedwell, PT, DPT  Last Updated: 10/12/2020