Spasticity is a disorder that causes stiffness in muscles. It is one of the most commonly occurring disorders due to cerebral palsy. In this, the part of the brain controlling voluntary movements is affected such that it causes the muscles to become extensively stiff and when you may try to move or relax your muscles, their stiffness aggregates. This forces the affected individual to keep his affected limb in one position, which sometimes results in weakness of the muscle. For instance, if spasticity occurs in the arms, the muscles of the arm tighten, pulling the elbows toward the body, and hands and wrists toward the chin. The hands themselves form tight fists. This constant tightened state may in turn weaken the muscles, stretching them to the point where some of their functionality is lost.

Other than cerebral palsy, some abnormalities like traumatic brain injury, stroke, spinal cord injury​ and multiple sclerosis​ can also cause spasticity. ​

Following signs are symptomatic of spasticity:

  • Involuntary movements; spasms (quick and/or sustained involuntary muscle contractions) or clonus (series of fast involuntary contractions) 

  • Increased muscle tone

  • Pain or discomfort 

  • Muscle stiffness

  • Abnormal posture 

  • Contracture (permanent contraction of the muscle and tendon due to severe lasting stiffness and spasms) 

  • Bone and joint deformities ​

If you or your your child show the above symptoms, it is likely that you may have spasticity or any other form of cerebral palsy. You should consult the Mind and Brain Service Line​ at The Aga Khan University Hospital for expert medical advice.

Your time with your doctor maybe limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started. ​

For a preliminary diagnosis, the doctor will take a medical history to identify whether you or someone in your family may have suffered from a neurological or muscular disorder.

In children, symptoms of cerebral palsy usually do not show up in first year of age. However, if cerebral palsy is depicted, the doctor will evaluate the child's muscle tone, reflexes, developmental rate, and early development of hand preference. During their first year, babies normally do not show hand preference. But infants with cerebral palsy in only one side of the body may develop a hand preference early on, using their unaffected side to reach and grab for toys even if they are closer to their opposite, affected hand.

The doctor may then order scanning tests such as Computed tomography scan (CT) scan, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and ultrasound of the head to get detailed images of the brain in order to determine if any neurological disorder other than cerebral palsy also exists.

Some procedures carried out to treat spasticity specifically are as follows;

  • Performing stretching exercises regularly. It makes muscles longer, helping to decrease spasticity and prevent contracture. 

  • Splinting, casting, and bracing. These methods are used to maintain range of motion and flexibility. 

  • Local injections into spastic muscles are very effective. They reduce tone selectively in muscles that are causing the most spasm

  • Intrathecal baclofen therapy (ITB) is used to treat severe spasticity. Baclofen is delivered directly to the spinal cord by a programmable pump and catheter. Because the drug is placed directly at the site of action within the spinal cord; there are fewer side effects than if the drug were taken by mouth. Patients must undergo an ITB screening test prior to having a pump placed. 

  • Orthopaedic surgery helps in treating bone deformities and muscle contractions and improves mobility.

  • If any treatment does not work, selective dorsal rhizotomy may be carried out in which the nerve causing muscle stiffness or contracture is cut.​​​​​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments' costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage.

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage.

The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.