Spasticity is a form of muscle overactivity that occurs when communication between your brain and spinal cord is disrupted by a spinal cord injury, other injury or an illness.
Spasticity has some benefits, such as helping tone muscles. However, spasticity may cause pain, fatigue and other problems. Also, spasticity can become a barrier to your daily activities, walking, sitting, positioning and sleep.
Treatment for spasticity usually involves a combination of the following options:
- Exercises. Physical and occupational therapists can teach you stretching, positioning and exercise activities that may help maintain range of motion and prevent shortening or tightening of the muscles (contracture).
- Oral medications. Certain prescribed medications given by mouth (orally) may help reduce muscle spasticity.
- Intrathecal therapy. Sometimes, spasticity may be treated with medications administered 24 hours a day directly into the fluid surrounding your spinal cord. The medication is delivered via an implantable pump and catheter system.
Injections. Botulinum toxin (Botox) injections into affected muscles may decrease the muscle signals that cause spasticity. The injections provide temporary relief, allowing you to move and strengthen your muscles. You may have injections every three months.
Phenol or alcohol injections into your peripheral nerve near the spastic muscles may reduce your muscle spasms.
- Neurosurgery and orthopedic surgery procedures. Surgical procedures to destroy (ablate) motor nerves of sensory spinal roots may stop the spasticity.
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March 10, 2020
- Abrams GM, et al. Chronic complications of spinal cord injury and disease. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Jan. 14, 2018.
- Burns AS, et al. Optimizing the management of disabling spasticity following spinal cord damage: The Ability Network — An international initiative. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2016;97:2222.
- NINDS spasticity information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Spasticity-Information-Page. Accessed Jan. 14, 2018.
- Baker GS. Spinal cord injuries. Minnesota Medicine. 1949;32:1094.
- Provider profile. CARF International. http://www.carf.org/providerProfile.aspx?cid=8020. Accessed Feb. 24, 2020.
- Riggin EA. AllscriptsEPSi. Mayo Clinic. Jan. 16, 2020.
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Spasticity management for spinal cord injury