Understanding spasticity is not easy, because it is a complex nerve and muscle disorder that limits movement and usually causes pain. An interruption in the impulses that nerves send to muscles can result in their inability to perform actions that require movement, including walking and talking. Among the physical conditions that are associated with spasticity are brain and spinal injury, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), stroke and multiple sclerosis (MS). Coping with the condition is usually difficult and frustrating, but effective treatment is available.

Learning About Symptoms

Symptoms of spasticity are recognizable, and identifying them provides an opportunity to seek treatment sooner rather than later. Discovering the condition is often alarming and disturbing as patients notice changes that are unusual. Detecting a change from the way that a body normally behaves can indicate the need for medical attention. Some symptoms are similar to those for other physical conditions, and a medical diagnosis is the most reliable way to arrive at a realistic conclusion.

Some of the signs of spasticity relate to stiffness and tightness in muscles, spasms, muscle contractions and an inability to extend joints fully. To confirm the presence of spasticity when it is suspected, patients may look for involuntary and jerky movements in addition to an abnormal positioning of shoulders, arms, wrists and fingers. Further confirmation may appear as pain in joints and muscles, a general inability to move without difficulty and lack of ability to control muscles that create speech.

Considering the Importance of Treatment

Getting a medical diagnosis as soon as symptoms start to appear may prevent damage that often results from neglect. Usually occurring in episodes of long or short duration, spasticity needs proper management to avoid a condition which leads to immobility in the shoulder joints as well as those in the ankles, elbows, knees and hips. The ability to walk, move or to function normally is usually adversely affected unless treatment intervenes. A painful effect of the condition is the presence of pressure sores on the skin. Remaining in the same position in bed or in a wheelchair for an extended period is associated with the development of pressure sores.

Understanding Treatment Options

Doctors may recommend medications, physical therapy, stretching or a regimen that includes a combination of treatments. The popular botulinum toxin, Botox, is an option that treats spastic muscles. Some medications that are effective include muscle relaxants, nerve blockers, sedatives, or others that calm spasms. A program of motion exercises, stretches, physical therapy and braces when necessary may help alleviate the painful condition. Preventing the shortening of tendons is a goal of a therapeutic program, and reducing the severity of symptoms may help patients obtain relief.

Surgical options are available for severe cases that respond inadequately to a treatment regimen. Releasing tendons is a surgical procedure that offers relief. Severing the pathway between nerves and muscles may also offer patients an option to consider. In some cases, doctors may recommend a surgical implant that helps balance the electrical signals that nerves carry to muscles.

Seeking Help

Asking for reliable information is better than worrying about the unknown. We understand the causes and treatment of spasticity, and we welcome requests for additional information.