CMAJ. 2003 Nov 25;169(11):1173-9
Dr. Satkunam is with the Division of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alta.
Spasticity refers to an abnormal, velocity-dependent (i.e., how fast the joint is moved through its range) increase in muscle tone resulting from interruption of the neural circuitry regulating the muscles and is a common complication of cerebral palsy, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis and stroke.
The muscle stretch reflex is thought to play an important role in spasticity generation.
Spasticity can have a significant detrimental effect on daily functions, such as feeding, dressing, hygiene, bladder and bowel control, and mobility; patients' need for support can also influence the cost of care.
Thus, managing these patients appropriately or referring them to those with expertise in this area is important.
In this article, I review the pathophysiology of spasticity and the evaluation and management of adult patients with the condition.
Two hypothetical cases are presented to illustrate the management of spasticity.