Spasticity is feelings of stiffness and a wide range of involuntary muscle spasms that can range from mild feelings of tightness in muscles to severe, painful and uncontrollable spasms in the extremities. Although spasticity can occur in any limb, it is most common in the legs.
There are two types of severe MS-related spasticity: 1. Flexor spasticity – spasms involving the hamstrings and hip flexors; the hips and knees are bent and difficult to straighten. 2. Extensor spasticity – spasms involving the quadriceps and abductors; the hips and knees remain straight with the legs very close together or crossed over at the ankles.
Muscles and tendons start to lose motion at the ends of the ranges of motion first. Making sure to take each affected muscle through its full range of motion regularly is important to manage the spasticity as well as the tendency to develop deformities or contractures – permanent shortening of the tissues.
Spasticity is aggravated by sudden movements or position changes, extremes of temperature, humidity or infections.
**Spasticity varies from person to person and therefore must be treated on an individual basis. Treatment of spasticity is needed in order to prevent painful and disabling contractures in the hips, knees, ankles, shoulders and elbows. 1. Daily stretching and other exercises 2. Most commonly used medicinal therapies – Baclofen and Zanaflex 3. Least commonly used medicinal therapies – Valium, Dantrium and Botox 4. In very severe cases, where not other treatments have worked, surgical measures may also be considered