Spasticity refers to a feature of an altered performance of a skeletal muscle in the muscle tone that involves hypertonia. Some people refer to this condition as unusual stiffness, pull of the muscles or tightness. The term spasm is derived from spasms which is a Greek word meaning pulling or drawing.
In clinical terms, spasticity is velocity-dependent resistance to a stretch which if not inhibited results in an excessive contraction of muscles and ultimately leads to hyperflexia which is an exaggerated and deep reflex of a tendon upon stimulation with reflex hammer. It can also be defined as spontaneous firing of the deep reflexes of the tendon as in the clonus.
Basically, spasticity is a disorder of muscle control that is characterized by stiff or tight muscles and the inability to control muscles. Additionally, reflexes can persist for long and they can be extremely strong causing hyperactive reflexes. For instance, when an infant has a hyperactive grasp reflect they can keep their hand held in tight fist.
Spasticity is in most cases caused by imbalanced signals from central nervous system which comprises of the spinal cord and the brain to muscles. The imbalance is commonly found in individuals who have cerebral palsy, stroke, and traumatic injury of the brain, spinal cord injury or multiple sclerosis.
Among the symptoms of spasticity include increased tone of the muscle, overactive reflexes, involuntary movements that can include sustained or brisk involuntary contraction of the muscles and a series of quick involuntary contractions. Patients also experience pain, decrease in functional abilities, delay in motor development, abnormal posture, difficulty with hygiene and care, joint and bone deformities as well as permanent contractions of tendon and muscle as a result of persistent spasms and stiffness among others.
Medical history of a patient is often evaluated to diagnose the condition. The medical history will be considered to determine muscular or neurological disorder of the patient and the family. There are tests that will be done to confirm diagnosis. The tests help in evaluating the leg and arm movements, active and passive motion, muscular activity and the ability of the patient to perform self-care tasks.
Spasticity treatment can include medication such as baclofen, dantrolene, tizanidine, Clonazepam, Diazepam and therapy. Physical therapy that is offered to patients entails stretching muscles and motion exercises. Braces can be used sometimes to help the patient prevent shortening of the tendons. Severity of the symptoms can be stabilized or reduced by rehabilitation.
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