Spasticity is one of the most annoying symptoms of multiple sclerosis. And it can be especially painful. It is a fairly a common symptom of MS and can have a big impact on ones daily life. If often has a big impact on mine. My worse experiences with spasticity has been this week.
In this post, I’ll first give you some background on what spasticity is. And then I’ll go into some of the things I do to relieve it.
What is spasticity?
Spasticity is a word to describe muscles that contract causing them to be stiff or very tense. When a muscle does not release fully it reduces the blood flow to the muscles, reduces oxygen supply to the muscle, and leads to a build up of lactic acid.
Spasticity is caused in a disruption in the muscle movement patterns resulting in the muscles contracting all at once. Muscle movements are normally controlled by a complex nervous system that tells some muscles to contract (tighten) while others relax. Damage to nerves in the central nervous system caused by Multiple Sclerosis can disrupt the pattern. As a result, many muscles may contract all at once or not relax after contracting. Sometimes this can be so intense and long term.that it can lead to bone malformation and long term pain. Other times the muscles simply feel tight, like one worked out, but that feeling affect the entire leg, back, arms, etc. Not just a select group of muscles.
If you have ever had a charley horse you have experienced those involuntary muscles spasms. Usually charley horse’s occur in the calf, foot or thigh. Spasticity hits at all sorts of random places.
Typically it will be my feet or the muscles in my lower back (especially if I have been doing dishes). A few days ago a muscle in my shoulder contracted and became so tight that I felt like I nearly passed out because of the pain. This lasted about 10 minutes. When it finally released it was still tight and took a lot of work for it to release. Other times it is the glutes, the large muscle in the back of the thigh.
Spasticity can lead to:
- Pain and discomfort
- Reduced ability to function
- Problems with care and hygiene
- Abnormal posture
- Decreased quality of life
What are symptoms of spasticity?
- Increased muscle tone (I guess that is a good side effect)
- Involuntary muscle movements
- Spasms, which can be quick or can or be sustained for some time.
- Clonus: a series of fast involuntary contractions
- Contracture: a permanent contraction of the muscle and tendon due to severe lasting stiffness and spasms.
- Bone and joint deformities
Tips to Reduce Spasticity
Talk to your doctor about your options. Physicians have several things they can do to help the management of spasticity.
- Use a stationary bike daily to help push the lactic acid from your muscles
- Relaxation Techniques
- Aquatic therapy
- Electrical stimulation, such as a tens unit
- Cold and/or warm compresses
- Compression stockings
- Relaxation techniques
- Chemodenervation with botulinum toxin or phenol
When faced with a SPASTICITY attack I :
Some of the things I have found help provide some relief are…
- Increase water intake
- Breathe Work to increase oxygen supply
- Stretching. Lot of stretching
- Massage using foam rollers
- Trigger Point Therapy
- CBD Orally and as a Cream. I like a brand that has capsaicin in it.
- Essential Oils
- Deep Blue Essential Oil Cream by DoTerra
- Baclofen – twice a day every day
Spasticity and MS: Management Strategies
Frequently Asked Questions About Spasticity
Are there other diseases that cause spasticity?
Yes. Strokes, spinal cord injuries cerebral palsy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease), hereditary spastic paraplegias, and adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD).
What causes spasticity?
Spasticity is caused by damage to the nerve pathways that send messages from the brain to the spinal cord. These messages tell muscles to relax. When that signal is disrupted, because of damage to the nerves, spasticity sets in.
How many people typically deal with spasticity?
Approximately 12 million people worldwide, are affected by spasticity. Approximately 80 percent of people with cerebral palsy and 80 percent of those with multiple sclerosis live with spasticity.
Multiple Sclerosis Association of America. “Spasticity.” MSAA, https://mymsaa.org/ms-information/symptoms/spasticity. Accessed 21 March 2021.
John Hopkins Medicine, “Spasticity.” John Hopkins Medicine, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/spasticity. Accessed19 March 2021.
The Cleveland Clinic “Spasticity.” The Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/14346-spasticity. Accessed19 March 2021.
What Causes Muscle Spasticity?. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/spasticity. Accessed 19 March 2021.