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 increasing muscle tone. However, spasticity also may worsen muscle stiffness and cause pain, uncontrollable muscle spasms, fatigue and other problems. Spasticity can make it more difficult to perform daily activities such as walking, sitting and sleeping.

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 release tightened tendons or destroy (ablate) motor nerves of sensory spinal roots may stop the spasticity.