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What Everyone Should Know About Spasticity

What is Spasticity?

7/29/2021 7:58:00 AM

What is Spasticity?

Here’s how to spot symptoms, info on your treatment options, and how to prevent a UTI from striking in the first place.

Can you prevent spasticity?Unfortunately, no. If you have one of the conditions that can cause spasticity, you can’t do anything to prevent spasticity from developing, Dr. Schulder says. (But having a condition that can cause spasticity is not a given you will develop it.) While the underlying causes may be out of your control, he says you can take precautions to avoid potential injuries and complications by leading an overall healthy lifestyle (being active, eating a balanced diet, and managing stress).

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What are the treatments for spasticity?It’s important to treat your spasticity so you feel more comfortable and can move better. [8] Which treatment is best for you depends on the severity and location of your symptoms. “We want to start with the least invasive treatment and, if necessary, move to increasingly invasive treatments,” Dr. Schulder says. That means that most often, doctors recommend a combination of physical therapy and medication; however, surgery is necessary in some cases.

Physical therapyExercises to strengthen and stretch muscles can help train the limbs to be less stiff and not contract, Dr. Schulder says. This can help increase the range of motion, reduce the severity of symptoms, and reduce the risk of muscles becoming shorter, which can happen when they stay contracted. [4][8] In addition to showing you stretches and exercises, to help relax and retrain your muscles, a physical therapist may apply temporary casts or braces, or heat or cold. Another treatment is called electrical stimulation (or e-stim), which involves applying painless electrical impulses to the affected area in order to help reignite the muscles’ ability to contract. [8]

MedicationsOral treatments:Prescriptions such as baclofen, tizanidine, clonazepam, and diazepam can help relax muscles and decrease pain by acting on the overactive nerves in the spinal cord, Dr. Schulder explains. The upside is that these oral medications can relax a large number of muscles at once; the downsides are that they may cause drowsiness, dizziness, or liver inflammation. [5]

Botulinum toxin injections:In more severe cases, “Botulinum toxin injections can be dramatically effective,” Dr. Schulder says. The upside is that rather than treating your whole system, the treatment is delivered directly to the affected muscles and can help them relax, improving function. [4] However, the effect wears off after 3 to 6 months, so you will need to repeat the injections [5].

Intrathecal baclofen therapy (IBT) pump:For severe spasticity that other medications have failed to help, a programmable pump and catheter may be used to deliver baclofen (a muscle relaxant) directly into the spine. The upside is that because the drug is placed directly where it’s needed within the spinal cord there are fewer side effects than oral alternatives. [5]

SurgeryTo improve spasticity, surgeons may:Lengthen a tight tendon by making cuts in it. As it heals, it lengthens. [3, 7]Perform a tendon transfer, moving a tendon from one area of the body to another. [3]Cut the nerve-muscle pathway to decrease muscle stiffness. [2] Cutting a nerve means you cannot move the joint, “but with such severe contraction of a joint, you typically couldn’t move it anyway,” Dr. Schulder says.

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