Understanding Spasticity

Spasticity is a condition where muscles continuously contract. It’s one of the most common symptoms of multiple sclerosis. It can be as mild as tightness in the muscles, or it can be as extreme as painful, uncontrollable muscle spasms or involuntary movements of the extremities. Spasticity is not limited to the extremities, however. It can also affect joints as well as the lower back. Spasticity in the legs can interfere with walking because of the leg stiffness.  The arms can also be involved and interfere with activities of daily living.

What causes spasticity?

Contractions occur when there’s a problem with the signal from the central nervous system to the muscles. Spasticity is a common symptom of MS, however it can also be found in people with cerebral palsy, brain trauma, stroke, or those who have suffered a spinal cord injury.

Managing spasticity

There are a few different ways that a person can manage their symptoms. Treatments are always done on a case-by-case basis.

Spasticity is often treated with oral medications that help relax the muscles or decrease stiffness. However, some patients cannot tolerate oral medications because of certain side effects. While oral medications relax the muscles, they may also cause sedation and weakness. Patients may become too drowsy from these medications to experience the benefits. Sometimes combinations of drugs are used rather than a single medication.

There are also injection medications – such as Botox treatment – that go directly into the muscle. These injections paralyze spastic muscles, and typically last up to 13 weeks. Botox injection has been used to relieve spasticity symptoms for a number of years. Neurological Associates in Fayetteville offers Botox treatment for spasticity, migraine headaches, and dystonia. Other uses are blepharospasm and hemifacial spasm.

For more severe cases of spasticity, a pump might be used. These pumps are surgically implanted into a patient, and inject medication directly into the spine. This method may be used for low extremity spasticity.

Physical therapy is very important when it comes to managing spasticity. The importance of stretching and strengthening cannot be stressed enough. Physical therapy can be used in conjunction with oral medications or injections, or it might be enough to manage spasticity alone. Stretches, movements, and manipulations help relax the muscles. This can help relieve muscle contractions.

Management is critical. If you have MS and are dealing with spasticity, or any other symptoms, you must see a medical professional. The symptoms of spasticity and their effects can vary greatly from person to person. Individual treatment is the only way to ensure proper management. A Neurologist will help assess your symptoms, and help make the right decisions for treatment.