Spasticity is a condition characterized by an increase in muscle tone or muscle stiffness that may interfere with movement, speech, or cause discomfort or pain.

Spasticity can be caused by a number of conditions, usually related to damage to the nerve pathways in the brain and/or spinal cord that coordinate and control muscle movement. It may occur in association with spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, stroke, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, hereditary spastic paraplegias and metabolic diseases.


Symptoms of spasticity may include

  • Hypertonicity—an increase in muscle tone
  • Clonus—a sequence of rapid muscle contractions
  • Scissoring—involuntary crossing of the legs
  • Contractures—fixed joints
  • Exaggerated deep tendon reflexes
  • Muscle spasms

Spasticity ranges from mild muscle stiffness to more severe cases accompanied by painful, uncontrollable muscle spasms. Spasticity can interfere with daily activities and motor rehabilitation efforts.


Prognosis and treatment are dependent on the associated disorder, though potential therapeutic options include administration of medication, physical therapy, targeted injection of botulinum toxin, or surgery. For information about treatments options available at Kennedy Krieger Institute, please call the number below or click the request an appointment button. 

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