Symptoms of Spasticity

The muscle contractions of spasticity can cause pain and symptoms that include:

  • Stiffness in the extremities, arms and legs
  • Painful muscle spasms
  • Abnormal posture
  • Hyper-responsive reflexes
  • Increased muscle rigidity
  • Clonus, or uncontrollable movement, in a series of involuntary contractions and relaxations in a muscle or muscle group

Spasticity often causes difficulty with activities of daily living, such as walking, transfers and personal hygiene. If severe, spasticity can lead to skin irritation and even skin breakdown.

If spasticity persists and a joint remains in one position for a prolonged period of time, the tendons and ligaments can permanently shorten—a condition known as contracture. Contractures can be challenging to treat, as the joint becomes difficult to straighten out. At Northwestern Medicine, we aggressively treat spasticity to try to maintain or restore function while preventing complications associated with spasticity.