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What is Spasticity after Stroke and How Can I Treat It?

Spasticity Defined

Spasticity is a common side effect after stroke or traumatic brain injury and is defined as a condition where muscle tone is increased, leading to stiff, rigid and sometimes painful movements. It occurs when a muscle involuntarily contracts when an individual moves, inhibiting the full range of motion in that limb or body part. While spasticity can affect any part of the body, the most commonly ares are the elbow, wrist and ankle, resulting in a significant impact on daily activities and quality of life. 

Some common symptoms of spasticity are difficulty stretching the muscle, stiffness in the extremity effected, or muscle spasms. More severe levels of spasticity can look like a curled fist or wrist that is held tightly to the individual’s chest. 

This condition can be a challenge to manage, but with the right treatment and management, spasticity can be effectively reduced and its impact on daily life can be minimized.

Treatment options for Spasticity after Stroke

Treatment for spasticity after stroke typically involves a combination of physical therapy, medications, and other interventions. Physical therapy is an important aspect of spasticity management, as it helps to improve flexibility, strength, and coordination. Exercises designed to stretch and relax affected muscles can also be helpful in reducing spasticity.

Medications are often used to manage spasticity, and there are several types available. Some common medications include baclofen, tizanidine, and dantrolene. These medications work by relaxing the muscles and reducing spasticity. However, they may have side effects, so it is important to discuss the risks and benefits of each medication with a doctor before starting treatment.

Other interventions that can help to manage spasticity include Botox injections, nerve blocks, and surgical procedures. Botox injections can help to relax the muscles and reduce spasticity, while nerve blocks can help to reduce pain and discomfort. In some cases, surgical procedures such as selective dorsal rhizotomy may be recommended to address spasticity that is particularly severe and resistant to other treatments.



In addition to medical treatments, there are also several lifestyle changes and modifications that can help to manage spasticity after stroke. For example, maintaining a healthy diet, staying physically active, and reducing stress can help to improve overall health and reduce the impact of spasticity on daily life. Using assistive devices such as canes, walkers, or braces can also help to reduce the effects of spasticity and make daily activities easier.

Spasticity after stroke can be a challenging condition to manage, but with the right treatment and management, its impact on daily life can be minimized. Physical therapy, medications, and other interventions can help to reduce spasticity and improve quality of life. By working with a healthcare provider, individuals with spasticity can develop a personalized treatment plan that meets their unique needs and goals.


References: American Stroke Association