Your Health A-Z

Spasticity

Spasticity is a condition in which certain muscles are continuously contracted. This contraction causes stiffness or tightness of the muscles and may interfere with gait, movement and speech. Spasticity 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, anoxic brain damage, brain trauma, severe head injury and some metabolic diseases such as adrenoleukodystrophy and phenylketonuria. Symptoms may include hypertonicity (increased muscle tone), clonus (a series of rapid muscle contractions), exaggerated deep tendon reflexes, muscle spasms, scissoring (involuntary crossing of the legs) and fixed joints. The degree of spasticity varies from mild muscle stiffness to severe, painful and uncontrollable muscle spasms. The condition can interfere with rehabilitation in patients with certain disorders and often interferes with daily activities.

Prognosis

The prognosis for those with spasticity depends on the severity of the spasticity and the associated disorder(s).

Treatment

Treatment may include such medications as baclofen, diazepam or clonazepam; muscle stretching, range of motion exercises and other physical therapy regimens to help prevent joint contractures (shrinkage or shortening of a muscle) and reduce the severity of symptoms; or surgery for tendon release or to sever the nerve-muscle pathway.

(Reviewed by Dr Andrew Rose-Innes, Department of Neurology, Yale University School of Medicine)

The information provided in this article was correct at the time of publishing. At Mediclinic we endeavour to provide our patients and readers with accurate and reliable information, which is why we continually review and update our content. However, due to the dynamic nature of clinical information and medicine, some information may from time to time become outdated prior to revision.

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.