Spasticity is stiff or rigid muscles. It may also be called unusual tightness or increased muscle tone. Reflexes (for example, a knee-jerk reflex) are stronger or exaggerated. The condition can interfere with walking, movement, or speech.
Spasticity is usually caused by damage to the part of the brain that is involved in movements under your control. It may also occur from damage to the nerves that go from the brain to the spinal cord.
Symptoms of spasticity include:
Spasticity may also affect speech. Severe, long-term spasticity may lead to contracture of muscles. This can reduce range of motion or leave the joints bent.
This list does not include all conditions that can cause spasticity.
Exercise, including muscle stretching, can help make your symptoms less severe. Home-based physical therapy is also helpful.
Contact your health care provider if:
Your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask questions about your symptoms, including:
After determining the cause of your spasticity, the doctor may refer you to a physical therapist. Physical therapy involves different exercises, including muscle stretching and strengthening exercises. Physical therapy exercises can be taught to parents who can then help their child do them at home.
Other treatments may include:
Muscle stiffness; Hypertonia
Dobkin BH. Principles and practices of neurological rehabilitation. In: Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 48.
Griggs R, Jozefowicz R, Aminoff M. Approach to the patient with neurologic disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 403.
Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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