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What is Spasticity?

Spasticity is a neuromuscular condition usually caused by damage to the portion of the brain or spinal cord that controls voluntary movement. The damage causes a change in the balance of signals between the nervous system and the muscles. It is typically found in people with cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and spinal cord injury.

Spasticity

The prevalence of spasticity

Following a stroke
17% to 38%
Following a spinal cord injury
40% to 78%

Charley horse is an understatement.

Spasticity is often described as tight, stiff muscles or spasms that may make movement, posture, and balance difficult. It negatively affects muscles and joints of the extremities, and is particularly harmful to growing children. Individuals with mild spasticity may experience muscle tightness whereas severe spasticity may produce painful, uncontrollable spasms of the extremities; most commonly the legs and arms. This can interfere with functional recovery and curtail rehabilitation efforts.

Unintended consequences.

Spasticity can be disabling and if left untreated, or sub-optimally managed, it may lead to adverse effects such as:

  • Contractures
  • Muscle and joint deformitiesv
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Chronic constipation
  • Fever or other systemic illnesses
  • Pressure sores
  • Overactive reflexes
  • Pain
  • Decreased functional abilities and delayed motor development
  • Difficulty with care and hygiene
  • Abnormal posture
  • Bone and joint deformities

Loosening the grip.

Common treatment interventions for spasticity vary from conservative (therapy) to more aggressive (surgery). Typically, a variety of treatment options are used simultaneously to maximize results. Current spasticity treatment options may include the following:

  • Oral medications
  • Injectable medications
  • Stretching
  • Orthoses
  • Casting
  • Electrotherapeutics
  • Cryotherapy
  • Surgery

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