Sunday, June 21, 2015

Tone, Tightness, & Spasticity

The following article is reproduced from the Stroke Wise web site (www.strokewise.info) with Dave Valiulis' permission. I encourage you to visit his site as he has a lot of excellent articles related to strokes. You may click on any highlighted words below to be taken to a website for more information. When you exit that website you will be returned to this one automatically.

Tone, Tightness, & Spasticity

Spasticity is tight, stiff muscles that make movement difficult or even impossible. Also called tone or tightness, spasticity can cause pain, abnormal posture, and uncontrollable movements.

Spasticity can occur anywhere in the body, but it is most common in the arm typically with a closed fist, bent wrist, and flexed elbow. Needless to say, this can make common activities like dressing and eating very difficult.


In legs, spasticity causes a stiff knee and a pointed foot. It can also cause involuntary movements, which may include spasms and clonus (a series of fast involuntary contractions). Orthotics, such as ankle-foot braces (AFOs), are sometimes used to limit spasticity in legs.

Nearly one out of every three patients may have spasticity after a stroke, and approximately 40% of them still have spasticity at 12 months post-stroke. In a survey done by the National Stroke Association, while 58% of survivors in the survey experienced spasticity, only 51% of those had received treatment for the condition.

The cause of spasticity is not totally understood, but basically it entails damage to the part of the brain that controls voluntary movement.

Without daily physical rehab, the muscles will remain contracted and joints become immobile. For best results during stroke rehab, therapy such as stretching and strengthening exercises work best and are typically the first line of treatment.

What you can do about the symptoms:

Strategies include moving of the affected limb early in rehabilitation and sustainedstretching.

Splinting and ice packs are other strategies that can be used to temporarily decrease the extent of spasticity.

Oral medications for spasticity include medications such as Valium or Baclofen, which relaxes muscles by acting on the central nervous system. They can decrease muscle spasms, tightness, and pain and improve range of motion. The problem with oral medications is their side-effects like sleepiness.

Baclofen can also be given as an injection within the space surrounding the spinal cord (this is called intrathecal injections). However, this this requires surgical implantation of a pump that delivers the drug to the spinal cord.

Injections are administered directly into the spastic muscle by blocking chemicals that make muscles tight. Commonly used is the botulinum toxin (Botox) or Phenol. These injections usually improve muscle stiffness within two to four weeks.

In severe cases, surgery is an option. This includes includes lengthening or releasing of muscle and tendons and cutting selective sensory nerve roots.

But "the Holy Grail for spasticity reduction is a melding of doctor-prescribed medical interventions and therapist-delivered neuroplastic treatment options," as Peter Levine says in his book "Stronger After Stroke".

*********************************************************************************

No comments: