What Is Spasticity? Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment


Spasticity doesn’t have to be treated if it’s not causing bothersome symptoms.

However, if symptoms interfere with daily activities or lead to a loss of function, doctors have a number of therapies they can recommend.

Oral Medications

Some oral medicines that are used to treat spasticity symptoms include:


Doctors can inject phenol, alcohol, anesthetic medicines, or neurotoxins — onabotulinumtoxina (Botox), abobotulinumtoxina (Dysport), rimabotulinumtoxina (Myobloc), or incobotulinumtoxina (Xeomin) — directly into muscles and nerves to control spasticity. The results usually last three to six months.

Physical, Occupational, and Speech Therapy

Physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT) can be useful for helping people with spasticity manage their symptoms.

With PT, therapists teach patients how to perform specific stretching and strengthening exercises that can improve mobility and range of motion.

Part of PT might include using treatments called functional electrical stimulation (FES) or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) to help reduce muscle stiffness. In one study, researchers found that a single FES or TENS session may lessen symptoms of spasticity for four hours.

OT typically involves exercises that focus on improving coordination and strength, so individuals can better perform daily activities.

Some people with spasticity also benefit from speech therapy.


Surgical options for treating spasticity include:

  • Intrathecal Baclofen Therapy (ITB) With ITB therapy, a programmable pump is implanted under the skin of the abdomen, and a catheter connected to it delivers baclofen directly to the spinal cord. It’s sometimes used to treat spasticity that’s severe.
  • Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR) SDR involves cutting selected nerve roots to reduce severe spasticity in the legs. It’s most commonly done in people with cerebral palsy.

Assistive Devices

Assistive devices, such as splints, braces, or casts, can help people with spasticity maintain continuous muscle stretching and flexibility.

Sometimes, mobility devices and home modifications are needed to help individuals with spasticity get around. People with spasticity may benefit from:

  • Canes, walkers, or wheelchairs
  • Grab bars
  • Shower benches
  • Raised toilet seats
  • Ramps

Complementary Approaches

Some people with spasticity turn to alternative or complementary approaches to ease their symptoms. While not all these therapies have been proven to work, they might be helpful for certain individuals.

Recently, medical marijuana has received attention for its potential ability to help spasticity. According to the National MS Society, oral cannabis extract and synthetic THC are “probably effective for reducing patient-reported symptoms of spasticity and pain, but not MS-related tremor or spasticity measurable by tests administered by the physician.”

In a study published in 2021, researchers looked at the effectiveness of nabiximols (Sativex), a botanical oral spray made from extracts of the cannabis plant, for treating spasticity in people who have MS. They found more than 60 percent of people who started add-on treatment with nabiximols reported a clinically significant symptomatic effect and continued treatment after 12 weeks.

Other common alternative treatments for spasticity include:

Home Remedies

Activities performed at home that may help ease symptoms of spasticity include:

  • Engaging in regular exercise
  • Stretching
  • Using cold packs
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Eating a high-fiber diet


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Back to top button