MS Symptoms: Muscle Spasticity
Muscle spasticity is one of the more common symptoms of MS.
Spasticity is a constant state of contraction in a muscle causing it to become hard and rigid. The muscle does not relax because the message from the brain to the muscle is interrupted due to the demyelination of part of the nerve network to that muscle.
Spasticity can range from mild to so severe that muscles can feel like concrete to the touch. In many cases, the spasticity does not allow for movement because the muscles become so tight.
Spasticity can occur in any muscle, but it is most common in the legs which can interfere with walking causing gait issues. In severe cases, individuals may need to be confined to wheelchairs because they are unable to move their legs.
The next most common areas of spasticty are the arms, back, hips, buttocks, hands and fingers.
Spasticity can be extremely painful causing constant discomfort in some while others experience no pain at all.
We work with many individuals who have spasticity and find it very interesting that there seems to be no standard as to how it will present itself. One would expect that someone with mild spasticity would be able to move better and have less pain than someone with more severe spasticity. But this is not always the case. Sometimes it is the exact opposite. A person with mild spasticity (meaning their muscles are not very rigid) may struggle with movement and deal with a lot of pain whereas a person whose muscles are extremely rigid may not experience any pain and have the ability to move their muscles.
A person who suffers from spasticity does not necessarily need to accept the fact that it will always be this way. With constant attention to the muscles and consistent work, they can find relief from their spasticity.
We treat spasticity in several ways:
Stretching is critical, but to make the stretch effective, we must teach the client relaxation techniques. The client must learn how to control their mind/body connection and to pinpoint the particular muscle we are targeting. Eventually, clients are able to relax specific parts of the affected muscle at will.
Myofascial Release techniques have proved very helpful in relieving spasticity and we are using them more and more with great results.
Exercising the muscle at low intensities also aids in relieving spasticity.
All of these techniques help clients lessen the severity of the spasticity, relieve pain and gain more use of the muscle.
Here is a testimonial from one of our clients, Robin, who came to us with such severe spasticity that her legs were like rocks, had minimal movement and could not be straightened because the muscles were so tight:
"When I started my journey, I hadn't walked in over 2 years. I had very little feeling and movement in both legs. With stretching and relaxation techniques I learned how to better control the spasticity in my legs. I can now almost straighten my legs and have greater range of motion. The best part was when I finally stood up at the parallel bars, I surprised everyone when I took steps!
I continue to work with Mark and Brenda weekly and have taken even greater strides in my journey."