According to the National MS Society’s website, “Spasticity refers to feelings of stiffness and a range of involuntary muscle spasms. It may be as mild as the feeling of tightness of muscles or as severe as to produce feelings of pain or tightness in and around the joints, and can cause low back pain.”
Spasticity is most common in the legs but can occur in any limb. For some people it is very painful and for others it is just another symptom that a MS patient has to deal with. It is also described as joint stiffness, involuntary jerky movements, exaggeration of reflexes, muscle spasms, muscle contractions and difficulty moving.
My definition of spasticity is a constant charlie horse muscle cramp that will not go away no matter what I do to relieve it. I can stretch it numerous times a day with no relief. My hamstring feels stiff and rigid. I often refer to it as a tree branch that can break at any time. Spasticity can interfere with walking and movement. Although spasticity is annoying and painful to some, it can benefit others with very weak legs as the rigidity can help them stand and walk.
Spasticity can be triggered by sudden movements, position changes, temperature changes or infections. I seem to notice it most often when the weather changes drastically from hot to cold or vice versa. The symptom is usually caused from damage in the brain and spinal cord and the way it sends signals to the nerves. It is very important to contact your physician if you have spasticity, as left untreated it can lead to serious complications like contractures (frozen muscles).
The Internet has numerous articles and information on how to control spasticity. Some include stretching, massage, yoga, Gatorade or drinks with electrolytes, and eating foods rich in potassium. Often times physicians will work closely with physical and occupational therapists to help patients stretch and do exercises to relax the spastic muscles.
Physicians may prescribe medications such as Baclofen, Tizanidine, Diazepam and Valium. Botox injections are also used to control spasticity. The injection is given right into the muscle to loosen and relax the contracted muscle. Many times the Botox injections also help with mobility. According to the web, marijuana is becoming popular to help with spasticity, but at this time there are no long-term studies on this topic. Surgery may be required if the spasticity is severe.
Do you suffer from spasticity? What do you do to control it?