Best Spasticity Treatment Ideas Following Stroke

Dorothee Zuleger, MOT, OTR/L, DRS
Tuesday, July 3rd, 2018


Spasticity is a condition in which a muscle or group of muscles is hyperactive and unable to turn off and relax. After an injury to the brain or nervous system signals to and from a muscle are not regulated as they should be and therefore create abnormal muscle tone. This constant state of contraction can cause, pain, stiffness and shortening of soft tissue limiting normal range of the joint.  The degree of spasticity can range from mild muscle stiffness to severe, painful, and uncontrollable muscle spasms.


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A tight or stiff joint can severely limit the ability to perform or participate in functional tasks such as dressing, reaching for a cup or releasing something.  Imagine trying to reach for the TV remote with an intense charley horse in your arm. When this tightness in a muscle or joint is left untreated, it can create a painful permanent deformity in the extremity. An arm and hand with spasticity is often pulled against the chest, with the elbow and wrist bent and the fingers curled in a fist.


The good news is that spasticity is a treatable condition:


  • Stretching helps to decrease muscle and joint stiffness and can help prevent permanent muscle shortening
  • Splints/braces/orthotics help maintain the extremity in an optimal position
  • Medications such as Baclofen or other muscle relaxants can decrease the hyperactivity of a muscle
  • Botox injections into the spastic muscle can temporarily paralyze the overactive muscle and allow a therapist to regain ROM and strength in surrounding muscles


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What treatment is best? Everybody responds different to these approaches. If managed correctly and shortly after the initial injury, spasticity can be prevented or kept to a minimum. Consult your physician or skilled therapist to discuss options that would benefit you.





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