Spasticity is abnormally increased muscle tone. It is the result of a neurologic injury or disease such as from a stroke or spinal cord injury. Spasticity is usually felt as muscle tightness. It is velocity dependent, which means that as you move or range a limb the tightness will be felt and often increase in severity. If left untreated, spasticity can result in complications such as pain, contracture (the limb is stuck in an abnormal fixed position), skin problems, and loss of function.
There are no specific tests required to diagnose spasticity except for a physical exam. However, x-ray is often ordered to rule out other potential causes of decreased range of motion in a limb.
Spasticity can be treated in various ways. The first line of treatment is with oral muscle relaxers. If these do not work or are not well tolerated due to side effects, then Botox can be used to relax the tight muscles. In rare occasions, a special device called a Baclofen pump can be surgically installed directly into the the fluid around the spinal cord to help relax the muscles.
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