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:
• Abnormal posture
• Carrying the shoulder, arm, wrist, and finger at an abnormal angle because of muscle tightness
• Exaggerated deep tendon reflexes (the knee-jerk or other reflexes)
• Repetitive jerky motions (clonus), especially when you are touched or moved
• Scissoring (crossing of the legs as the tips of scissors would close)
• 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.
Common causes of spasticity:
• Brain damage caused by lack of oxygen, as can occur in near drowning or near suffocation
• Cerebral palsy
• Head injury
• Multiple sclerosis
• Neurodegenerative illness — illnesses that damage the brain and nervous system over time
• Spinal cord injury
This list does not include all conditions that can cause spasticity.
The Neurology Center of New England specializes in diagnosis and treatment of spasticity. Please contact us today for more information.