Spasticity is a condition where there is an abnormal increase in stiffness of muscle or muscle tone. This may interfere with the movement and speech or might be associated with pain or discomfort. Generally, spasticity is caused by damage to the nerve pathways within your brain or spinal cord which control muscle movement.
Treatments can effectively improve the quality of life of patients with spasticity. This blog is a comprehensive guide on spasticity, its causes, symptoms and treatment options available.
What is Spasticity?
Spasticity is an ailment connected to the muscular system characterized by stiff or tight muscles and a lack of control over them. The condition may also cause powerful and persistent reflexes. This is due to the sudden contraction of a specific set of muscles when a person tries to move or stretch. Different people experience spasticity differently. The tightness and stiffness may be mild for some and maybe uncontrollable for others.
Why does spasticity occur?
An imbalance in the impulses sent to the muscles by the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) results in spasticity. Damage to the brain or spinal cord’s nerve pathways that regulate muscle movement and stretch responses is the reason behind this. People with cerebral palsy, severe brain damage, stroke, multiple sclerosis, or spinal cord injury frequently exhibit this imbalance.
What signs and symptoms indicate spasticity?
The following are some signs and symptoms that one needs to look out for:
- Pain or discomfort during movement
- An increase in muscle tone
- Prolonged involuntary contractions/spasms
- Deformation of muscle/joints
- Abnormality in the posture
- Muscle tightness that disrupts sleep
- Permanent contraction of muscles leading to lasting pain
When should I schedule an appointment with the healthcare provider?
Spasticity may indicate damage to the brain or spinal cord. So, getting medical attention is crucial if anyone encounters these symptoms for the first time without an important reason.
If one has been diagnosed with spasticity, consult a medical professional if the condition worsens, occurs more frequently, or interferes with daily activities.
How is spasticity diagnosed?
In order to identify spasticity, the healthcare provider will review the patient’s medical history. They will examine the past medical history and any family or personal history of neurological or musculoskeletal diseases.
What are the treatment methodologies for spasticity?
For spasticity, there are numerous therapeutic options. Spasticity sufferers frequently receive multiple treatments. These treatments can aid with symptom relief and enhancement of the patient’s quality of life. These treatments may require the intervention of experts from different areas of medicine.
Spasticity treatments without surgery
There are a few nonsurgical therapies for better management of spasticity, which includes:
- Physical therapy: A physical therapist may suggest lower-intensity strengthening, mobility training and stretching exercises to keep improving the strength.
- Occupational therapy: An occupational therapist helps the patient by focusing on strengthening, stretching, and training to enable the patient to do daily tasks like dressing, bathing, etc.
- Speech therapy: A speech therapist can assist with speech, communication, and swallowing if the patient has spasticity that affects the face, throat, and mouth muscles.
- Casting or bracing: The healthcare provider may even ask the patient to put on casts or braces to the affected areas of the body to help the patient give the spastic muscles more stretch, enhancing range of motion and facilitating function.
- Assistive equipment: A person with spasticity can move around and carry out daily duties more quickly and safely with the support of a wide range of assistive devices.
- Oral drugs: They are generally prescribed by healthcare professionals along with other treatments. Medication is often only prescribed if your spasticity is interfering with everyday activities or sleep. Although they can have adverse side effects, including tiredness and weakness, oral spasticity medicines are frequently helpful.
Surgical treatment for spasticity
Surgery is often only advised by medical professionals in the most severe cases of spasticity. These treatments consist of:
- Intrathecal baclofen (ITB) therapy entails the surgical implantation of a pump that can continuously provide a dose of the drug baclofen to the spinal fluid through a catheter attached to the pump. Compared to taking baclofen orally, this can result in a considerable decrease in discomfort due to spasticity with a lesser risk of sleepiness.
- Spasticity may be brought on by an imbalance in the electrical signals going to specific muscles. Selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) helps to regulate the spinal cord’s electrical signals by surgically removing a few precisely chosen nerve roots. This technique is only carried out by surgeons when severe leg spasticity is present. Problematic nerve roots can be precisely severed while yet keeping other functions to lessen muscle stiffness. This is the most typical recommendation from healthcare providers for cerebral palsy patients.
- Orthopaedic surgery: This type of surgery focuses on addressing deformities and contractures caused by spasticity in muscles, bones, and connective tissue. Procedures for tendon lengthening and transfer are two examples of this kind.
Botox treatment for spasticity
Spasticity can be effectively treated with local injections of botulinum toxin into spastic muscles. These injections have the ability to target the muscles that are tightest or spasm the most.
A botulinum toxin injection relaxes tense, spastic muscles by injecting the toxin into specific locations in the muscle. This might enhance convenience, functionality, and location. The effects normally take seven to ten days to become apparent and last for three months on average.
This therapy is usually used in cases where only a few muscle groups need to be relieved of spasticity. It can be used in conjunction with other spasticity treatments, also.
What potential side effects could spasticity have?
Spasticity can have a variety of complications. It can be extremely painful and impair daily activities in severe cases. Additionally, it may make it more challenging to carry out basic care and hygiene activities. As a result, there may be a higher chance of getting pressure sores (bedsores), which can cause infection and sepsis.
Moderate to severe spasticity can also result in broken bones, partial or complete joint dislocation, urinary tract infections, persistent constipation, immobile joints etc.
Spasticity is a typical sign and aspect of a number of neurological diseases. Spasticity’s impact on your daily life might range from minor annoyance to a major disturbance. The good news is that spasticity can be treated in a number of ways. Together with the medical team, one can decide on the most effective course of action to surpass this challenging ailment.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is there a complete cure for spasticity?
No. The treatment of spasticity focuses on relieving the pain and other symptoms and improving the quality of life.
Can children get spasticity?
Yes. Spasticity is a symptom or characteristic of many neurological problems. It can happen to people of any age group who are affected by multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, stroke or spinal cord injury.