Spasticity

At Beaumont, spasticity and other neurological conditions are treated by a dynamic and responsive group of neuroscientists dedicated to providing the best available patient care with a family-centric and compassionate approach.

Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak recently ranked among the nation's best hospitals for neurosurgery and neurology according to U.S. News & World Report.

Spasticity is a condition that causes an abnormal increase in muscle tone. This could result in muscle stiffness, interfere with speech and movement, or cause varying levels of pain and discomfort. Spasticity is usually caused by damage to nerve pathways within the spinal cord or brain. It may also be a symptom of multiple neurological conditions including spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, stroke, brain or head trauma, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and hereditary spastic paraplegias.

Symptoms of spasticity include:

  • clonus - rapid muscle contractions
  • exaggerated deep tendon reflexes
  • fixed joints
  • hypertonicity - increased muscle tone
  • muscle spasms
  • scissoring - involuntary leg crossing

Spasticity affects people differently and ranges from mild muscle stiffness to severe, uncontrollable muscle spasms. Some rehabilitation patients with spasticity find that the condition can interfere with the rehabilitation process and hinders the ability to perform daily activities.

What Causes Spasticity?

Spasticity mostly occurs in central nervous system (CNS) disorders. It can also be a symptom of multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy.

There are many theories about what causes spasticity but the actual cause is not entirely known. When damage happens to the spinal cord or central nervous system, this may cause a change in the signal balance between the nervous system and the muscles, which can lead to increased spasms, contractions and reflexes in the muscles.

Treatment for Spasticity

Treatment for spasticity may range from medication to physical therapy and even surgery. Treatment will depend on the degree of muscle impairment, which varies from person to person.

Medications used to manage symptoms of spasticity include baclofen, diazepam, tizanidine or clonazepam. Spasticity medications may help to relieve the symptoms but may not provide functional benefit. The effectiveness of these medications can vary between individuals.

Physical therapy may include range of motion exercises and muscle stretching. This may help prevent shortening or shrinking of muscles and may decrease the severity of the symptoms. Injection of botulinum toxin may also be recommended. Muscles with the most tone will be injected to purposely weaken them and improve range of motion and function. Occasionally, surgery may be recommended for tendon release or to sever the nerve-muscle pathway.

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