Learn About Spasticity

What is the definition of Spasticity?

Spasticity is stiff or rigid muscles. It may also be called unusual tightness or increased muscle tone. Reflexes (for example, a knee-jerk reflex) are stronger or exaggerated. The condition can interfere with walking, movement, speech, and many other activities of daily living.

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What are the alternative names for Spasticity?

Muscle stiffness; Hypertonia

What is some background information about Spasticity?

Spasticity is often caused by damage to the part of the brain that is involved in movements under your control. It may also occur from damage to the nerves that go from the brain to the spinal cord.

Symptoms of spasticity include:

  • Abnormal posture
  • Carrying the shoulder, arm, wrist, and finger at an abnormal angle because of muscle tightness
  • Exaggerated deep tendon reflexes (the knee-jerk or other reflexes)
  • Repetitive jerky motions (clonus), especially when you are touched or moved
  • Scissoring (crossing of the legs as the tips of scissors would close)
  • Pain or deformity of the affected area of the body

Spasticity may also affect speech. Severe, long-term spasticity may lead to contracture of muscles. This can reduce range of motion or leave the joints bent.

What are the causes of Spasticity?

Spasticity may be caused by any of the following:

  • Adrenoleukodystrophy (disorder that disrupt the breakdown of certain fats)
  • Brain damage caused by lack of oxygen, as can occur in near drowning or near suffocation
  • Cerebral palsy (group of disorders that can involve brain and nervous system functions)
  • Head injury
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Neurodegenerative illness (illnesses that damage the brain and nervous system over time)
  • Phenylketonuria (disorder in which the body can't break down the amino acid phenylalanine)
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Stroke

This list does not include all conditions that can cause spasticity.

How do I perform a home exam for a Spasticity?

Exercise, including muscle stretching, can help make symptoms less severe. Physical therapy is also helpful.

When should I contact a medical professional for Spasticity?

Contact your health care provider if:

  • The spasticity gets worse
  • You notice deformity of the affected areas
What should I expect during a doctor appointment?

Your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask about your symptoms, including:

  • When was it first noticed?
  • How long has it lasted?
  • Is it always present?
  • How severe is it?
  • Which muscles are affected?
  • What makes it better?
  • What makes it worse?
  • What other symptoms are present?

After determining the cause of your spasticity, the doctor may refer you to a physical therapist. Physical therapy involves different exercises, including muscle stretching and strengthening exercises. Physical therapy exercises can be taught to parents who can then help their child do them at home.

Other treatments may include:

  • Medicines to treat spasticity. These need to be taken as instructed.
  • Botulinum toxin that can be injected into the spastic muscles.
  • In rare cases, a pump used to directly deliver medicine into the spinal fluid and nervous system.
  • Sometimes surgery to release the tendon or to cut the nerve-muscle pathway.
Central nervous system and peripheral nervous system
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What are the latest Spasticity Clinical Trials?
Effects of Spinal Cord Stimulation Therapy on Motor Function and Gait in Patients With Pure Hereditary Spastic Paraplegias
Summary: It's a single-center, prospective, open label clinical study with a 12 months follow-up period, to investigate the therapeutic effect and safety of spinal cord stimulation (SCS) on motor function and gait in patients with pure Hereditary Spastic Paraplegias.
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Impact of Mobile Manual Standing Wheelchair on Standing Dosage and Utility
Summary: People with spinal cord injuries (SCI) are particularly prone to complications from excessive sitting, because many are not able to stand without support. Excessive sitting after SCI is believed to contribute to pressure injuries, pain, osteoporosis, joint stiffness, spasticity, and worsening bowel and bladder function. The VA has developed, patented, and licensed a mobile manual standing wheelcha...
What are the Latest Advances for Spasticity?
Effect of Early Radial Shock Wave Treatment on Spasticity in Subacute Stroke Patients: A Pilot Study.
Summary: Effect of Early Radial Shock Wave Treatment on Spasticity in Subacute Stroke Patients: A Pilot Study.
Effects of Acupuncture Combined with Biofeedback Therapy on Limb Motor Rehabilitation in Patients with Acute Stroke: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.
Summary: Effects of Acupuncture Combined with Biofeedback Therapy on Limb Motor Rehabilitation in Patients with Acute Stroke: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.
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Role of botulinum toxin in the management of hand ulceration due to post-stroke spasticity among aged care residents.
Summary: Role of botulinum toxin in the management of hand ulceration due to post-stroke spasticity among aged care residents.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: January 28, 2021
Published By: Evelyn O. Berman, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics at University of Rochester, Rochester, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Deluca GC, Griggs RC. Approach to the patient with neurologic disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 368.

McGee S. Examination of the motor system: approach to weakness. In: McGee S, ed. Evidence-Based Physical Diagnosis. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 61.

Oleszek JC, Davidson LT. Spasticity. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 730.