Encyclopedia > Spasticity

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Spasticity is a disorder of the body's motor system in which certain muscles are continuously contracted. This contraction causes stiffness or tightness of the muscles and may interfere with gait, movement, and speech. Spasticity is usually caused by damage to the portion of the brain or spinal cord that controls voluntary movement. It may occur in association with spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, anoxic brain damage[?], brain trauma[?], severe head injury, some metabolic diseases such as adrenoleukodystrophy, and phenylketonuria. 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. The condition can interfere with rehabilitation in patients with certain disorders, and often interferes with daily activities.

Is there any treatment?

Treatment may include such medications 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 reduce the severity of symptoms; or surgery for tendon release or to sever the nerve-muscle pathway.

What is the prognosis?

The prognosis for those with spasticity depends on the severity of the spasticity and the associated disorder(s). To a small degree spasticity performs the helpful role of exercise, but it is usually bothersome to normal activities in life.

What research is being done?

The NINDS supports research on brain and spinal cord disorders that can cause spasticity. The goals of this research are to increase scientific understanding about these disorders and to find ways to prevent, treat, and cure them.


  • "Other Complications of Spinal Cord Injury: Spasticity." (Louis Calder Memorial Library of the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center, October 3, 2002), http://calder.med.miami.edu/pointis/spasticity
  • "William and Spackman's Occupational Therapy 9th Edition." ed. Maureen E. Neistadt and Elizabeth Blesedell Crepeau (Lippincott-Raven Publishers, 1998), 233. ISBN 0-397-55192-4

Some of this article contains text from the public domain document at http://www.ninds.nih.gov/health_and_medical/disorders/spasticity_doc.htm

All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

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