This article on Epainassist.com has been reviewed by a medical professional, as well as checked for facts, to assure the readers the best possible accuracy.

We follow a strict editorial policy and we have a zero-tolerance policy regarding any level of plagiarism. Our articles are resourced from reputable online pages. This article may contains scientific references. The numbers in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.

The feedback link “Was this Article Helpful” on this page can be used to report content that is not accurate, up-to-date or questionable in any manner.

This article does not provide medical advice.


Understanding Post-Stroke Spasticity : Causes, Symptoms, and Management Techniques

What is Post-Stroke Spasticity?

Strokes result from either blocked or ruptured blood flow in the brain’s arteries, causing damage to the brain and spinal cord, and giving rise to additional symptoms. The American Stroke Association reports that spasticity, a condition characterized by muscle stiffness, will affect between 25% and 43% of individuals in the initial year following a stroke.(1,2)

Spasticity following a stroke, also known as post-stroke spasticity, is a neurological condition characterized by increased muscle tone and stiffness in certain muscle groups, primarily on one side of the body. It arises because of damage to the central nervous system, which can occur during a stroke when blood flow to the brain is disrupted.(3)

This damage affects the communication between the brain and the muscles, leading to a disruption in the normal balance of signals. As a result, certain muscle groups receive continuous signals to contract, causing them to become tight and resistant to movement. This heightened muscle tone can lead to a range of challenges, including difficulty with voluntary movement, altered posture, and potential discomfort.(4)

Post-stroke spasticity can also manifest in various forms, leading to:

  • Tightened knees
  • Tension in the fingers
  • Foot bending at an angle
  • Weakness in a foot, resulting in dragging while walking
  • Arm bending and clasping tightly against the chest
  • Curling of the toes

According to the American Stroke Association, spasticity is more prevalent among younger individuals who have experienced a stroke.(5)

Is It Possible to Treat Post-Stroke Spasticity?

Post-stroke spasticity can be treated and there are various approaches and therapies available to help manage and alleviate spasticity symptoms. Some of these may include:

  • Physical Therapy: Targeted exercises and stretches can help improve muscle strength and flexibility, reducing the severity of spasticity.(6)
  • Occupational Therapy: This focuses on improving the ability to perform daily activities, often by teaching adaptive techniques.
  • Medications: Certain medications, such as muscle relaxants or medications that target nerve signaling, may be prescribed to help manage spasticity.
  • Botulinum Toxin Injections: Injecting botulinum toxin (Botox) directly into affected muscles can temporarily weaken them and reduce spasticity.(7)
  • Intrathecal Baclofen Therapy: A pump is surgically implanted to deliver baclofen, a muscle relaxant, directly into the spinal fluid, providing more targeted relief.(8)
  • Orthotics and Assistive Devices: Braces, splints, or orthotic devices can help support and stabilize affected limbs.
  • Surgery: In severe cases, surgical interventions like tendon lengthening or nerve decompression may be considered.

The specific treatment approach will depend on factors like the severity of spasticity, the affected muscles, and the individual’s overall health. Although spasticity can cause discomfort, there are strategies to alleviate its symptoms and enhance your overall well-being.

Effective Approaches to Cope with Spasticity after a Stroke

  1. Regular Exercise and Targeted Stretching

    Regular exercise and targeted stretching of the affected limbs are fundamental strategies in managing spasticity after a stroke. These activities serve several crucial purposes. Firstly, they help maintain and improve the flexibility of muscles, preventing them from becoming overly tight and rigid. This, in turn, mitigates the intensity of spasticity, promoting a wider range of motion.

    Additionally, exercise and stretching can bolster muscle strength, enhancing overall mobility and coordination. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals experiencing weakness or difficulty with movement due to spasticity. By systematically engaging in these activities, individuals can gradually regain control over their affected limbs.

    However, it is important to approach exercise and stretching with care and under the guidance of a healthcare professional or physical therapist.

  2. Paying Attention to Your Posture

    Adapting your posture is a valuable technique in effectively managing spasticity after a stroke. Proper posture can help alleviate discomfort and promote better mobility.(9) Consider the following tips for making posture adjustments:

    • Maintain Neutral Spine Alignment: Sit or stand with your spine in a natural, neutral position. Avoid slouching or arching your back excessively.
    • Supportive Seating: Choose chairs and seats with proper lumbar support. This helps maintain a healthy curvature of the spine.
    • Use Cushions or Pillows: Place cushions or pillows strategically to provide additional support and comfort, especially in areas like the lower back and neck.
    • Positioning of Limbs: Keep your affected limbs in positions that minimize spasticity. Experiment with different angles and support devices to find what works best for you.
    • Avoid Prolonged Static Positions: Change your posture regularly, whether sitting or standing, to prevent stiffness and muscle tightness.
    • Ergonomic Workstations: If applicable, ensure your workspace is ergonomically designed to promote proper posture and minimize strain on your muscles.
    • Stability Aids: Consider using assistive devices like canes or walkers to provide additional support and stability while standing or walking.
    • Consult a Professional: Seek guidance from a physical therapist or healthcare provider who can offer personalized recommendations for posture adjustments based on your specific needs and challenges.
  3. Additional Support for the Affected Limbs

    Supplying additional support to affected limbs is a crucial strategy in effectively managing spasticity after a stroke. This targeted approach helps minimize discomfort and enhances mobility. Here are some practical tips for providing extra support:

    • Use Orthotic Devices: Consider using braces, splints, or orthotic devices to stabilize and support weakened or spastic limbs. These aids can help maintain proper alignment and prevent excessive muscle tightness.
    • Use Assistive Devices: Utilize mobility aids like canes, walkers, or crutches to provide added stability and balance, reducing the risk of falls or strain on affected limbs.
    • Wear Proper Footwear: Choose shoes with good arch support and a comfortable fit. Well-fitting footwear can improve stability and reduce pressure on the feet and legs.
    • Cushioning and Padding: Incorporate cushions, pads, or soft materials in areas where pressure or friction may be an issue. This can alleviate discomfort and prevent skin irritation.

    By implementing these measures, you can effectively provide extra support to affected limbs, enhancing your ability to manage spasticity and maintain a higher level of comfort and mobility after a stroke.

  4. Modify Your Living Environment

    Modifying your living environment can significantly contribute to effectively managing spasticity after a stroke. These adaptations can enhance safety, comfort, and overall quality of life. Consider the following tips for making your home more conducive to managing spasticity:

    • Clear Pathways: Ensure that walkways are free from obstacles or clutter to prevent tripping hazards and allow for smooth movement.
    • Install Handrails and Grab Bars: Install handrails along staircases and in bathrooms to provide additional support and stability when navigating these areas.
    • Use Non-Slip Flooring: Use non-slip mats or rugs in areas prone to moisture, such as bathrooms and kitchens, to reduce the risk of slips and falls.
    • Have Accessible Furniture: Arrange furniture to create clear pathways and ensure that seating options offer proper support and stability.
    • Install Ramps and Lifts: Install ramps or lifts to facilitate easy access to different levels of your home for individuals with mobility challenges.
    • Ensure Proper Lighting: Ensure adequate lighting throughout your home to minimize shadows and improve visibility, reducing the risk of accidents.
  5. Seek Professional Help

    Collaborating with an occupational therapist is a valuable step in effectively managing spasticity after a stroke. These trained professionals specialize in helping individuals regain independence and improve their ability to perform daily activities. Here is how an occupational therapist can assist in managing spasticity:

    • Customized Treatment Plans: An occupational therapist will assess your specific needs, abilities, and challenges related to spasticity. They will then design a tailored treatment plan that addresses your unique situation.
    • Range of Motion Exercises: They will guide you through targeted exercises and stretches that aim to improve muscle flexibility and range of motion, helping reduce the severity of spasticity.
    • Functional Training: Occupational therapists focus on practical, everyday activities like dressing, grooming, and cooking. They will teach you techniques to perform these tasks more efficiently and with less strain.
    • Sensory Techniques: They may employ sensory techniques to address heightened or altered sensations that often accompany spasticity.
    • Education and Coping Strategies: They provide valuable education about spasticity, its management, and offer practical strategies to cope with its effects.


Post-stroke spasticity typically emerges three to six weeks after the event and may worsen up to six months later. If left untreated, it can lead to permanent muscle contraction and joint immobility. While there is no outright cure, lifestyle changes, exercises, occupational therapy, and mobility aids can greatly improve quality of life. Seeking medical advice for potential treatments like medication or injections is also crucial in preventing long-term damage from spasticity.


  1. Wolfe, C.D., 2000. The impact of stroke. British medical bulletin, 56(2), pp.275-286.
  2. Spasticity (2023) www.stroke.org. Available at: https://www.stroke.org/en/about-stroke/effects-of-stroke/physical-effects-of-stroke/physical-impact/spasticity (Accessed: 08 September 2023).
  3. Thibaut, A., Chatelle, C., Ziegler, E., Bruno, M.A., Laureys, S. and Gosseries, O., 2013. Spasticity after stroke: physiology, assessment and treatment. Brain injury, 27(10), pp.1093-1105.
  4. Li, S. and Francisco, G.E., 2015. New insights into the pathophysiology of post-stroke spasticity. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 9, p.192.
  5. (No date) Lets talk about stroke rehabilitation. Available at: https://www.stroke.org/-/media/Stroke-Files/Lets-Talk-About-Stroke/Life-After-Stroke/LTAS-Rehab-2019.pdf (Accessed: 08 September 2023).
  6. Bhakta, B.B., 2000. Management of spasticity in stroke. British medical bulletin, 56(2), pp.476-485.
  7. Prazeres, A., Lira, M., Aguiar, P., Monteiro, L., Vilasbôas, Í. and Melo, A., 2018. Efficacy of physical therapy associated with botulinum toxin type A on functional performance in post-stroke spasticity: A randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. Neurology international, 10(2), p.7385.
  8. Francisco, G.E., 2001. Intrathecal baclofen therapy for stroke-related spasticity. Topics in stroke rehabilitation, 8(1), pp.36-46.
  9. Delafontaine, A., Vialleron, T., Hussein, T., Yiou, E., Honeine, J.L. and Colnaghi, S., 2019. Anticipatory postural adjustments during gait initiation in stroke patients. Frontiers in neurology, 10, p.352.
Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:September 22, 2023

Recent Posts

Related Posts