Spasticity is stiff or rigid muscles. It may also be called unusual "tightness" or increased muscle tone. Reflexes (for example, a knee-jerk reflex) are stronger or exaggerated. The condition can interfere with walking, movement, or speech.
This list does not include all conditions that can cause spasticity.
Exercise, including muscle stretching, can help make your symptoms less severe. Home-based physical therapy is also helpful.
Call your health care provider if
Contact your health care provider if:
The spasticity gets worse
You notice deformity of the affected areas
What to expect at your health care provider's office
Your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask questions about your symptoms, including:
When was it first noticed?
How long has it lasted?
Is it always present?
How severe is it?
What muscles are affected?
What makes it better?
What makes it worse?
What other symptoms are present?
Your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist. Physical therapy involves different exercises, including muscle stretching and strengthening exercises. Physical therapy exercises can be taught to parents who may then help their child do them at home.
Medicines for spasticity include baclofen, benzodiazepines (such as diazepam), clonidine, dantrolene, gabapentin, and tizanidine. Botulinum toxin can be injected into the spastic muscles. In rare cases, a pump may be inserted into the spinal fluid to directly deliver medicine to the nervous system.
Sometimes, a person may need surgery to release the tendon or to cut the nerve-muscle pathway.
Griggs R, Jozefowicz R, Aminoff M. Approach to the patient with neurologic disease. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 418.
David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by Joseph V. Campellone, MD, Division of Neurology, Cooper University Hospital, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.