A to Z of MS
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A to Z of MS Spasticity
Spasticity is a symptom of multiple sclerosis where the muscles feel stiff, heavy and difficult to move. If it is very severe it can be very difficult to bend a limb at all. If a limb becomes fixed in one position it is known as a contracture.
In spasticity, muscle tone becomes greatly increased. Muscle tone refers to the level of tension or resistance to movement in a muscle which allows people to move limbs or hold a position. When someone has spasticity in a muscle, the signals from the brain are interrupted and the muscle remains in its shortened, contracted state. This causes the affected muscle to feel stiff or tight and to be resistant to movement.
The degree of spasticity can vary from person to person, day to day, hour to hour and can impact on many activities. Nevertheless, spasticity can be successfully managed.
Management of spasticity
Management of spasticity requires an assessment to identify any possible aggravating factors or triggers. For example factors such as skin irritation, pressure sores, incomplete bladder emptying, constipation, or urinary tract infections can all make spasticity worse. If the underlying triggers are effectively managed, spasticity can be reduced.
Physiotherapists can help with stretching exercises and advice on posture and positioning. Occupational therapists can also have a role with advice on seating and on ways to make daily activities easier
Medication for spasticity
There are a number of drugs that can be used to manage spasticity in MS. The first line treatments are usually baclofen or gabapentin. If these prove unsuccessful or side effects are unmanageable, several other medication options may be suitable.