What is Muscle Spasticity?
Muscle spasticity is a disorder in muscle control, which leads to tight and stiff muscles and also an inability to control those muscles.1 In addition to this, there might be strong hyperactive reflexes, which might persist for too long. Muscle spasticity can make it difficult for you to walk, move and talk.
What Causes Muscle Spasticity?
Muscle spasticity occurs when the nerve impulses controlling the muscle movements get imbalanced or damaged. There are various health conditions, which can lead to muscle spasticity such as.
- Brain injury
- Spinal cord injury
- Multiple sclerosis 2
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Cerebral palsy
- Hereditary spastic paraplegias
What are the Symptoms of Muscle Spasticity?
The occurrence of the symptoms of muscle spasticity can range from mild to debilitating and to being really very painful. The symptoms of muscle spasticity include.
- Increased muscle tone
- Overactive reflexes
- Spasms (which are the brisk and sustained involuntary contractions) and clonus (fast involuntary contractions)
- Deformity in bones and joints
- Deformed posture
- Delayed motor development
- Decreased functional abilities
- Permanent contraction of the tendons and the muscle due to severe and persistent spasms
- Involuntary jerks
- Limitation of the range of motion
Additional complaints occurring in patients with muscle spasticity are.
- Urinary tract infection
- Chronic constipation
- Fever and other systemic illnesses
- If muscle spasticity remains for a prolonged time, it can lead to frozen joints, pressure sores, and loss of ability to function normally.
What Triggers Muscle Spasticity?
The spasticity in the muscles can be triggered by a change in position or sudden movement. Other triggers include. fatigue, high humidity, stress, extreme cold and heat, infection and tight clothing.
How is the Diagnosis of Muscle Spasticity Made?
The diagnosis of muscle spasticity involves a multidisciplinary healthcare team, which includes a physician, neurologist, physical therapist, orthopedic surgeon and an occupational therapist.
The first step in the diagnosis of muscle spasticity includes a medical history followed by an analysis of the posture, movement control, muscular strength, coordination and spasticity (observing muscular resistance to passive lengthening during relaxation). All signs and symptoms experienced by the patient are discussed as it helps in treatment of muscle spasticity.
Other diagnostic tests for muscle spasticity include.
- Electromyography. To determine specific nerve conduction velocity.
- MRI Scan. To determine the cause of damage to the central nervous system that is causing muscle spasticity.
- Other Imaging Techniques. These are done to visualize the changes in the head, neck, and spine to identify the cause of muscular symptoms.
How is Muscle Spasticity Treated?
The treatment of muscle spasticity depends on the frequency and the level of spasticity and the underlying condition causing it.
Medicines for Treating Muscle Spasticity
The medicines included in treatment of muscle spasticity are. baclofen (a muscle relaxant), diazepam (a sedative), botulinum toxins, such as onabotulinumtoxinA and abobotulinumtoxinA (injected into the spastic muscles), phenol (a nerve blocker), and tizanidine (to calm the spasms and relax the tight muscles). These medications can lead to certain side effects, such as fatigue, confusion and nausea.
Occupational and Physical Therapy for Treating Muscle Spasticity
Occupational and physical therapy exercises are also recommended by the doctor for treating Muscle Spasticity and these involve.
- Muscle stretching exercises.
- Range of motion exercises.
- And sometimes use of braces to prevent tendon shortening in muscle spasticity.
Rehabilitation also helps in muscle spasticity treatment, as it reduces or stabilizes the severity of muscle spasticity symptoms and may also prevent tendon shortening.
Some precautions, if taken by the patient, can help with the recurrence of symptoms of spasticity which are and these steps are.
- Getting plenty of sleep helps in preventing muscle spasticity.
- Avoiding extreme hot and cold temperatures prevents the recurrence of muscle spasticity.
- Changing position every two hours helps with avoiding pressure sores seen with muscle spasticity.
- Wearing loose fitting clothes and avoiding braces or any restrictive garment helps in triggering muscle spasticity.
The symptoms and severity of muscle spasticity vary from person to person and also depends on the associated disorder. So does its treatment. It is therefore important to consult a doctor and start the required treatment for muscle spasticity as soon as possible.