You have had a stroke but you survive. However, you notice that your body becomes tight and stiff. You cannot move properly as you used to. This is called muscle spasticity. Fortunately, your rehabilitation team can help you deal with it.
Doing exercises is an important part of muscle spasticity treatment. After a stroke, your doctor may recommend you to meet a therapist to start your rehabilitation program. The therapist will help you relearn some skills, regain physical function, improve range of motion and prevent permanent muscle shortening. You can do exercises on your own, with the help of your therapist, or special devices.
In some cases, your therapist may recommend cold compress and electrical stimulation to help the muscles heal better.
Braces can be used to help keep the muscles in a normal position. Casts and splints can help stretch the muscles, prevent contracting.
Medications can be a part of muscle spasticity treatment. Your doctor may ask you to use muscle relaxants such as:
- Baclofen (Lioresal) affects the central nervous system. This type of drug can help reduce muscle spasms and tightness, relieve pain and increase your range of motion. Side effects of baclofen include loss of muscle coordination, hallucination, muscle weakness. Baclofen is the most common medicine that is prescribed for spasticity.
- Tizanidine hydrochloride (Zanaflex) affects nerve impulses. This type of drug can reduce spasticity. However, the effect of tizanidine does not last long. Side effects include sleepiness, dry mouth and low blood pressure.
- Dantrolene sodium (Dantrium). This type of drug can be used to block signals that cause muscles to contract. Side effects include weakness, nausea, vomiting, depression diarrhea.
- Other medications include diazepam (Valium), or clonazepam (such as Klonopin).
In many cases, doctors may ask you to use a combination of some medications.
Nerve block injections can also be used to help spasticity. Injections are considered more effective and safer than oral medications. Two main types of injection for spasticity include botulinum toxin (Botox) and phenol.
- Botulinum toxin (or Botox) works by blocking special chemical that causes muscle tightness. Botox can help improve muscle stiffness. You may need more than one shot. And effects of the shot do not last forever. Side effects of Botox include weakness, swallowing problems and pain at the injection site.
- Phenol may last longer than Botox. Common side effects of phenol include pain, burning, tingling, swelling.
If you experience severe muscle spasticity, surgery may be suggested. During your surgery, the doctor may release biceps or triceps tendon located in your arm if you have upper limb problems, lengthen the hamstring in patient with trouble walking or release the flexor muscles of the toe.
Self-care at home
Care for yourself carefully. Here are things you can do to prevent muscle spasticity from getting worse.
- Avoid tight clothing
- Manage your stress
- Change your positions until you find out a comfortable one
- Get enough sleep to avoid tiredness
Adjust the temperature to find out a comfortable one for you, not too hot and not too cold.
Muscle spasticity is a common condition caused by stroke. Although it can restrict your movement; rehabilitation program, medications and even surgery can be used to help you regain physical function and improve your range of motion.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: June 4, 2017 | Last Modified: June 4, 2017
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http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/LifeAfterStroke/RegainingIndependence/PhysicalChallenges/Spasticity_UCM_309770_Article.jsp. Accessed May 11, 2017.
After a Stroke: Medications to Reduce Arm Spasticity. http://www.webmd.com/stroke/features/after-a-stroke-medications-to-reduce-arm-spasticity#1. Accessed May 11, 2017.
Spasticity – Topic Overview. http://www.webmd.com/brain/tc/spasticity-topic-overview#1. Accessed May 11, 2017.