Symptoms and Causes of Spasticity
Symptoms can vary among individuals and can be painful, disfiguring and disabling.
Voluntary movement comprises a series of communications between muscles and the brain, with signals transmitted through the nerves and spinal cord.
This in turn affects the flow of signals to and from the muscles. However, involuntary movements may include spasms (brisk and/or sustained involuntary muscle contraction) and clonus (series of fast involuntary contractions).
People with brain injury, spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis can have varying degrees of spasticity.
Congenital conditions or other factors affect a particular area of the brain, spinal cord or nerves:
- difficulty with care and hygiene
- bone and joint deformities
- increased muscle tone
- muscle stiffness, triggering movements to be less precise and making certain tasks difficult to perform.
- muscle and joint deformities
- abnormal posture
- contractures (a permanent contraction of the muscle and tendon due to severe persistent stiffness and spasms)
- decreased functional abilities and delayed motor development
- inhibition of longitudinal muscle growth
- inhibition of protein synthesis in muscle cells
Reflex messages from the muscles may not reach the brain, or too many disorganized signals from the brain to the muscle may prevent it from responding normally.
As spasticity is mainly caused by damage to nerve pathways within your brain or spinal cord that control movement and stretch reflexes.
Spasticity may occur due to several conditions, including
- Spinal cord injury.
- Multiple sclerosis (MS).
- Cerebral palsy.
- Krabbe disease
- Brain or head injury.
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou
- Gehrig’s disease.
- Hereditary spastic paraplegias.
- Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD).
These factors and conditions which cause spasticity to impact the lifestyle of the individuals as
- It can be painful.
- Spasticity can cause a loss of range of motion in your joints.
- To sit longer may get painful and sometimes impossible.
- Spasticity in chest muscles, makes it challenging to take deep breaths.
- Repeated muscle spasms may affect sleep and its pattern.
- It can make movements harder to control.
There could be further, more evident complications
Left untreated, moderate to severe spasticity can also lead to:
- Urinary tract infections (UTI)
- Chronic constipation
- Partial or full dislocation of joints
- Fever or other systemic illnesses
- Pressure sores
- Frozen joints
Complications of spasticity can vary from individual to individual.
The severity can directly impact, daily functioning and cause excruciating pain. Performing daily hygiene tasks and basic care could also be disrupted. Consequently, this increases the risk of developing pressure injuries (bedsores), which may lead to infection and sepsis.