Spasticity is a condition in which certain muscles are continuously contracted. This contraction causes stiffness or tightness of the muscles and may interfere with gait, movement and speech.
It’s caused by damage to the portion of the brain or spinal cord that controls voluntary movement.
Symptoms may include hypertonicity (increased muscle tone), clonus (a series of rapid muscle contractions), exaggerated deep tendon reflexes, muscle spasms, scissoring (involuntary crossing of the legs) and fixed joints.
The degree of spasticity varies from mild muscle stiffness to severe, painful and uncontrollable muscle spasms, and the condition can interfere significantly with daily activities.
In people with multiple sclerosis, spasticity is sometimes worsened by temperature extremes, infections and humidity.
Treatment may include:
• Medications such as baclofen, diazepam or clonazepam.
• Muscle stretching, range-of-motion exercises and other physical-therapy regimens to help prevent joint contractures (shrinkage or shortening of a muscle) and to reduce the severity of symptoms.
• Surgery for tendon release or to sever the nerve-muscle pathway.