Spasticity may be caused by diseases such as cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, stroke, spinal cord injury and brain trauma.
Muscle over-activity due to spasticity may cause disabling symptoms such as pain, spasm and deformity. Patients have a difficult time opening joints to perform bathing, clothing and dressing due to the excessive tone in muscles. Patients have a difficult time transferring and walking because it may be difficult to bend the knee.
Baclofen, valium, clonazepam and zanaflex are some medications effective in treating mild spasticity. There medications at higher doses may cause daytime sleepiness and trouble concentrating.
Botulinum toxin injection into the spastic muscles helps with muscle relaxation while causing minimal side effects. Botulinum toxin works by blocking release of a neurochemical acetylcholine which is involved in sending the signal from the nerve to make the muscle contract. Benefit is typically seen in a few days after the injections, and can last 3-6 months.
Baclofen pumps are a useful therapy for patients who have spasticity mainly in the legs. Patients are first required to undergo an injection of baclofen into the spinal fluid; if this is effective in relieving their spasticity, then a baclofen pump is surgically implanted. The implanted pump delivers the baclofen directly into the spinal fluid. The pump requires baclofen refills and occasionally the dose delivered by the pump will change.
Physical and occupational therapists who specialize in neuron-rehabilitation help design exercise programs which help relieve stiffness and improve independence with exercises such as muscle stretching. The therapists also help choose the appropriate assist devices if needed for optimal quality of life.