Spasticity is a condition that causes muscle stiffness and affects a person’s ability to speak and move. A variety of different treatment options are available to help manage this condition.

Spasticity is a condition that involves an increased amount of muscle stiffness and tightness, which may affect speech and movement.

Some conditions that cause spasticity include:

This article outlines the different treatment options for spasticity and the outcomes.

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The goal of treatment for spasticity is to allow for increased movement and reduce symptom severity.

Treatment can help to:

  • relax muscles
  • reduce pain and stiffness
  • encourage muscle growth in children
  • improve independence

A 2019 study examined the treatment goals people with spasticity made for themselves. Some common goals included:

  • grasping, releasing, and carrying objects
  • reducing the need for a caregiver, particularly for washing and dressing
  • relieving pain

Physical and occupational therapy may help reduce the symptoms of spasticity.

Physical therapy typically involves stretching and strengthening exercises for large muscle groups. These exercises may help improve mobility and reduce weakness.

A 2018 review suggests that physical therapy is safe and beneficial for people with spasticity due to multiple sclerosis.

Occupational therapy usually targets smaller muscle groups. It may also include speech therapy.

Some of the most common physical and occupational therapy treatments include:

  • positioning to help aid breathing
  • prolonged muscle stretching
  • splinting to help reduce movement and spasms and strengthen muscles
  • motor-level stimulation, vibration, and electrical nerve stimulation to treat pain
  • traction, a spinal procedure that helps relieve muscle tension and pain
  • prolonged icing to help reduce pain and inflammation

A cast or a brace is a supportive device that a person can wear to reduce mobility and provide support. It can help limit involuntary spasms and relieve tight muscles.

A recent 2021 study looked into the effects of hand splints on hand spasticity. The researchers conclude that people who wore a hand splint for 4 weeks reported significantly improved hand function and decreased spasticity over time.

People with spasticity may also find the following assistive devices useful:

  • assistive technology devices, including hearing aids and adaptive eating utensils
  • mobility aids, such as:
    • crutches
    • canes
    • wheelchairs
  • standers
  • walkers
  • orthotics

According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), a doctor will prescribe medication only if a person’s symptoms interfere with sleep and daily activities.

Common oral medications for the treatment of spasticity include:

According to a 2017 study, there is currently insufficient evidence to determine which medications are most effective for treating spasticity.

And while these medications may help reduce symptoms, side effects are possible. Potential side effects may include:

Botox stands for botulinum toxin A.

Botox treatment involves injecting the toxin directly into specific muscles. This can help relax the muscles that cause the most discomfort, improving mobility and function.

This procedure works by blocking the chemical signal between the nerves and muscles, which is responsible for muscle tightening.

The effect from the injections typically lasts about 12–16 weeks.

Administering intrathecal medications involves surgically placing a small pump in a person’s abdomen. The pump gradually releases doses of medication, most commonly baclofen, directly into the spinal fluid, helping to reduce symptoms, including pain.

Doctors are more likely to recommend this therapy to people with severe spasticity.

According to a 2019 review, intrathecal baclofen therapy improves pain levels in most people.

Another type of surgery that doctors may recommend to people with spasticity is selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR). This procedure involves cutting out nerve roots along the spinal cord that may be causing symptoms.

SDR can help limit muscle stiffness and pain while maintaining a person’s mobility and overall function.

Doctors commonly use SDR to treat spasticity in people with cerebral palsy.

A 2021 review found that SDR effectively improved motion and reduced spasticity and pain in the short term. However, more research is necessary to clarify the long-term effects of SDR.

Most people tend to benefit from spasticity treatments. Treatments may help by:

  • improving movement
  • reducing pain levels
  • decreasing caregiver burden

Spasticity is a condition that causes muscle stiffness and pain. Several treatment options are available to help with symptoms.

These include physical therapy, occupational therapy, assistive devices, oral medications, botox injections, intrathecal medications, and surgery.

Most people experience improved mobility and a reduction in pain and stiffness after receiving treatment for spasticity.