abilityclinicstage_53lbl2  .  Jan 10

What is Spasticity?

Spasticity is a condition characterized by involuntary muscle stiffness, tightness, and

spasms. It is often caused by damage to the part of the brain or spinal cord that controls voluntary movement. Spasticity can affect various muscle groups and may range from mild to severe.

Common causes of spasticity include:

1. Brain Injury: Damage to the brain due to conditions such as stroke, traumatic brain injury (TBI), or cerebral palsy can lead to spasticity.

2. Spinal Cord Injury: Injuries to the spinal cord, such as those resulting from trauma or diseases, can disrupt communication between the brain and muscles, leading to spasticity.

3. Multiple Sclerosis (MS): MS is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system, leading to damage of the myelin sheath and potential development of spasticity. 

4. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS): ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that can cause muscle spasticity among other symptoms.

5. Cerebral Palsy: A group of disorders affecting movement and posture, often originating during fetal development or childbirth, cerebral palsy can lead to spasticity.

6. Brain Tumors: Tumors in the brain can affect the regions responsible for controlling muscle movement, leading to spasticity

7. Infections: Infections affecting the central nervous system, such as meningitis or encephalitis, can contribute to spasticity.

The symptoms of spasticity can include:

  • Muscle stiffness: The affected muscles become tight and resistant to movement.
  • Muscle spasms: Sudden, involuntary contractions of muscles.
  • Pain: Spasticity can cause pain, either directly due to muscle tightness or indirectly due to changes in posture and movement patterns. 
  • Impaired movement: Spasticity can interfere with normal, coordinated movement.

Management and treatment of spasticity may involve a multidisciplinary approach, and options may include:

1. Physical Therapy:

  • Physical therapists can design exercises and stretches to improve flexibility, strength, and coordination. Range of motion exercises can be particularly beneficial.

2. Medications:

  • Muscle relaxants or medications such as baclofen, tizanidine, or diazepam may be prescribed to help reduce muscle spasticity.

3. Botulinum Toxin Injections:

  • Injections of botulinum toxin (Botox) into specific muscles can temporarily block nerve signals and reduce muscle spasticity.

4. Oral Medications:

  • Anti-spasticity medications taken orally may be prescribed, such as baclofen or tizanidine.

5. Occupational Therapy:

  • Occupational therapists can provide strategies and tools to improve daily activities and make them more manageable for individuals with spasticity. 

6. Orthotics:

  • Braces or orthotic devices may be used to support and stabilize affected limbs. 

7. Intrathecal Baclofen Therapy: 

  • For severe spasticity, a pump can be implanted to deliver baclofen directly into the spinal fluid, allowing for lower doses and potentially reducing side effects.

8. Surgery:

  • Surgical interventions, such as selective dorsal rhizotomy or tendon release, may be considered in some cases. 

It’s important for individuals experiencing spasticity to work closely with healthcare professionals, including neurologists, physiatrists, physical therapists, and other specialists, to develop a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to their specific needs and underlying conditions.

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