Spasticity management is designed for adults or children who experience spasticity (involuntary muscle stiffness) as a result of neurological injury or disease. This excessive muscle tone can interfere with a person’s ability to function or make care giving difficult. By intervening to reduce spasticity, patients can achieve efficiency and quality of movement, plus pain reduction.
Spasticity is a type of muscle stiffness that can occur as a result of damage to the spinal cord or brain, and it is a common symptom in people with stroke, multiple sclerosis, cerebral aneurysms, brain and spinal cord trauma, tumors, and hypoxia (a lack of oxygen). Spasticity can be seen by itself, but it occurs more often in conjunction with weakness, pain, poor coordination, or loss of feeling.
Spasticity can have a profound effect on the lives of those with brain and spinal cord injuries. Often, stiffness makes it difficult to walk, eat, dress, bathe, transfer in and out of bed, or go to the bathroom. Sometimes, particularly in patients with spinal cord injury or multiple sclerosis, spasticity can result in painful spasms in the thighs and legs.
The diagnosis of spasticity usually requires no special equipment. A physician specializing in neurological surgery, neurology, or rehabilitation medicine can make the diagnosis simply by examining a patient. In cases of severe spasticity where joints are nearly “frozen”, the diagnosis can be more difficult.
Once a patient explains his or her symptoms, rehabilitation physicians and occupational therapists work together to determine which muscles are causing the most difficulty. This usually is done by observing a person walk or perform or simulate daily activities, or by reviewing a detailed description of a patients daily difficulties.
In many cases, spasticity can be managed effectively with a variety of treatments. If many muscle groups are involved, oral medications can be beneficial. When the condition involves a few muscles in one or two limbs, a variety of injections can be used, such as botulinum toxin. Physical and occupational therapy compliment many treatment approaches.