MS 101: What is Spasticity?
- by Teva's Lift MS® Team
- September 03, 2018
With the onset of warmer weather, people living with multiple sclerosis might notice that spasticity increases. According to the National MS Society, spasticity may be aggravated by sudden movements or position changes, extremes in temperature, humidity or infections, and can even be triggered by tight clothing. So, we’re here to help you understand what spasticity is and offer some tips for managing this symptom.
What is spasticity?
Spasticity is one of the more common symptoms of MS and refers to feelings of stiffness and a wide range of involuntary muscle spasms. There is an abnormal increase in muscle tone, which reacts with a spring-like resistance to moving or being moved. The condition can be mild (feeling stiff, heavy and difficult to move), to severe (involuntary spasms or jerking movements). It can occur in any limb, but it is much more common in the legs. Increased stiffness in muscles may affect movement, strength, coordination, motor control and disturb sleep. It could make the daily activities of living more difficult. As with many MS symptoms, it’s hard to know what to expect or predict.
“Spasticity is a common MS symptom that presents differently for everyone and requires an individualized treatment plan,” says Teva’s Shared Solutions® nurse Lauren R. Managing spasticity may require a team approach to prevent painful and disabling contractures in the hips, knees, ankles, shoulders and elbows. Spasticity varies from person to person, and treatment and management plans might involve a neurologist, nurse, rehabilitation specialist, and/or a physical or occupational therapist, as well as the patient’s Care Partner. This team can work together to identify goals to help improve physical function and comfort.
It’s important to identify the trigger for spasticity symptoms so the team can identify the best course of action. Spasticity treatment may involve physical therapy, adaptive equipment and treatment of pain to improve symptoms.
If you or a loved one is dealing with spasticity, ask your doctor if any of these tips are right for you:
- Cool it. Applying an ice pack to the affected area may reduce mild spasticity. Alternatively, moist heat may help relax muscles.
- Stretch it. Range-of-motion stretching exercises may help reduce muscle tightness and soreness.
- Move it. Maintaining an active lifestyle could help preserve overall muscle flexibility.
- Splash it. Swimming or water exercises could be helpful for joint stiffness.
- Destress it. Since stress might be a trigger, try to set aside time to relax. Try practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing, mindful movement, and meditation to alleviate stress.
- Journal it. “Spasticity can be amplified by various factors. Using a journal to track your symptoms can help you and your doctor identify triggers and determine the best treatment plan,” suggests Lauren R.
- Discuss it. Talk to your doctor about spasticity management and exercise before starting a new program.
While we hope this information is helpful, we encourage you to seek counsel from your healthcare provider for any questions specific to your experience or that of a loved one.
Please remember this blog is for general informational purposes only and does not replace conversations with your doctor. Please discuss any change in symptoms with your doctor.
COPAXONE® (glatiramer acetate injection) is indicated for the treatment of patients with relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis.
COPAXONE® is not indicated for the treatment of symptoms of RMS.
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Jo Snne Gamatoria | October 24, 2016Great info
Teva's Lift MS® Team | October 25, 2016We are happy you are finding value in the blog, Jo Anne! Please continue to check back for more info.
Brenda Rosenburg | January 05, 2017Thanks for the info.
Sharon kidd | February 16, 2017I have had RRMS for 34 years. When I got my diagnosis I sstarte jogging I hardly had strength to walk a half block but in time...and taking it slowly,I started jogging 3 miles a day. I also started lifting free weights. I wasn't going to let MS get the best of me. I can't do that now but I know it helped me for many years.
Teva's Lift MS® Team | February 17, 2017Finding an activity you enjoy can make all the difference, Sharon! Be sure to consult a healthcare professional before starting any exercise program.
Donna | June 27, 2017This information was very helpful. I have been suffering from spasticity and muscle spasms for a few eeeks.
Teva's Lift MS® Team | June 28, 2017Donna, it’s great to hear you enjoy the community we’ve built here! We welcome your contributions to it.
Myra | September 14, 2018I love information!! Thanks for sharing. I have had rrms since 1984. I was 24 now I'm 59. Teacher for 33 years. Had good & rough times throughout career. Still mobile. Hate the heat. Love helping others when possible!
Teva's Lift MS® Team | September 17, 2018We strive to make Lift MS an informative and inspiring community, Myra. Thanks for your part in making it so