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Spasticity

Limited coordination and muscle movement and painful muscle spasms in your arms and legs (spasticity) can happen as a result of a stroke.

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What is spasticity?

After a stroke, damage to the brain can block messages between muscles and the brain causing arm and leg muscles to cramp or spasm (spasticity), kind of like a bad charley horse. This will limit your coordination and muscle movement. This post-stroke condition makes daily activities such as bathing, eating and dressing more difficult.

Spasticity can cause long periods of strong contractions in major muscle groups, causing painful muscle spasms. These spasms can produce:

  • A tight fist
  • Bent elbow
  • Arm pressed against the chest
  • Stiff knee
  • Pointed foot
  • Stiffness in the arms, fingers or legs

Can spasticity be treated?

There are many strategies and treatments for spasticity to help you recover, return to work and regain function. In order to achieve the best results possible recovery, a mixture of therapies and medications are often used to treat spasticity. Ask a healthcare professional about the best treatment plan for you. Some of the options include:

  • Braces. Putting a brace on an affected limb
  • Exercises. Range-of-motion exercises
  • Stretching. Gentle stretching of tighter muscles
  • Movement. Frequent repositioning of body parts
  • Medications. Medications are available to treat the effects of spasticity
  • Surgery. Surgery on the muscles or tendons and joints may block pain and restore movement.

Tips to live with spasticity

Managing spasticity with assistive devices, aids and home adaptations can help ensure your safety and reduce the risk of spasticity-related falls. Physical and occupational therapists will recommend the appropriate aid(s) as well as safety procedures, maintenance and proper fit. Some modifications in your home to improve safety include:

  • Ramps
  • Grab bars
  • Raised toilet seats
  • Shower or tub bench
  • Plastic adhesive strips on the bottom of the bathtub
  • Braces, canes, walkers and wheelchairs may help you move about freely as you gain strength.

Always follow rehabilitation therapists’ recommendations regarding limitations and safety needs.

 

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