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About Spasticity

General Information

  • Spasticity is characterized by increased resistance to passive movement, overactive reflexes and simultaneous activation of opposing muscle groups.
  • Spasticity is caused by lesions in part of the brain involved in motor functions. The lesions impair brain cells that inhibit abnormal muscle contractions. The lesions are caused by a variety of injuries and disease to the brain and spinal cord, including stroketumor, hemorrhage, trauma, infection and multiple sclerosis. The lesions also are found in congenital illness such as cerebral palsy and myelomeningocele.


  • Characteristic postures include scissoring of legs or flexing of the thighs beyond their normal range of motion. These postures may be painful and make it difficult to sit in a wheelchair, lay in bed, drive modified vehicles or sleep.


  • Medication
    • Diazepam: Side effects are sedation, weakness, decreased stamina
    • Baclofen: Side effects are lower seizure threshold.
    • Dantrolene: Side effects are muscle weakness, sedation, hepatitis, anorexia, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.
  • Surgery
    • Surgery is an option for when spasticity fails to respond to medical treatment or when side effects of medications are intolerable.
    • A number of surgical procedures are used to address spasticity, including implantation of pumps to administer medications and electrophysiological stimulation during surgery to eliminate sensory rootlets involved in spasticity.