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Spasticity is a condition in which muscles are continually contracted. This leads to stiffness of the muscles that can interfere with movement, speech, and walking. It is usually caused by injury to the part of the brain or spinal cord that controls voluntary muscles. Many things can damage these areas including:

  • Spinal cord injury from accidents, tumors, or infections
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Strokes
  • Brain tumors
  • Head injuries
  • Metabolic diseases
  • Lack of oxygen to the brain from any cause


Symptoms of spasticity vary widely, depending on what part of the brain or spinal cord is affected and how severe the damage is. They can include:

  • Increased muscle tone
  • Overactive reflexes
  • Pain from the constant contraction
  • Developmental delays
  • Inability to walk
  • Inability to do activities of daily living such as feed, bathe, dress, or otherwise care for yourself
  • Abnormal posture
  • Contractures: permanent muscle and tendon contraction
  • Orthopaedic abnormalities


The damage to the brain and spinal cord cannot be repaired but treatments for spasticity do exist. They include:

  • Medications such as Baclofen and Zanaflex to relax muscles
  • Botulinum toxin injections into the spastic muscles to relax them
  • Surgery to lengthen a contracted tendon
  • Baclofen pump: A device implanted in the lower abdomen witha small tube threaded into the fluid around the spine-this suppresses the control of the spine over muscles leading to muscle relaxation
  • Physical, Occupational, and Speech therapies

External Resources

March of Dimes

National Multiple Sclerosis Society

United Cerebral Palsy

Erlanger Resources

Pediatric Neurology