Chronic Spasticity

Chronic spasticity is a muscular disorder in which patients experience persistent tightness or stiffness in certain muscles, as well as an inability to control them. Depending on which muscles are involved, spasticity may affect movement, walking ability or speech. The problem results from damage within the nervous system that disturbs the communication between the brain, the spinal cord and the muscles.

Chronic spasticity is common in individuals with certain neurological and neuromuscular disorders, including cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. It may also result from a stroke or traumatic injury to the brain or spinal cord.

Symptoms of Chronic Spasticity

The symptoms of chronic spasticity can vary considerably. Some patients experience only a sensation of tightness in the affected areas, while others may experience severe pain in the muscles and joints. Other symptoms of the disorder include:

  • Muscle spasms
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Deformities in the bones or joints
  • Hyperactive reflexes
  • Delayed motor development
  • Abnormal posture
  • Contractures (permanent muscle contractions)

Treatment of Chronic Spasticity

The treatment of chronic spasticity typically revolves around relieving pain and other symptoms and improving functions necessary for daily activities. Common methods of treatment include physical and occupational therapy, prescription medications, and local injections of botulinum toxin or phenol.

Physical therapy for the disorder involves muscle stretching and range of motion exercises. Wearing braces may be helpful for some patients. In certain severe cases, surgery may be performed for tendon release, to cut the nerve-muscle pathway, or to implant a pump that dispenses baclofen, a medication used to reduce muscle hyperactivity.

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