Spasticity is a muscle control condition in which there is an abnormal increase in the stiffness or tone of your muscles; the change in muscle tone may interfere with movement or speech and may include accompanying pain or discomfort. Spasticity is typically caused by damage or trauma to the muscle-control nerve paths in the brain or spinal cord; it may occur with other conditions such as multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, stroke, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and metabolic diseases such as adrenoleukodystrophy, phenylketonuria and Krabbe disease.

Symptoms of spasticity may include hypertonicity (increased muscle tone), clonus (a series of rapid muscle contractions), exaggerated deep tendon reflexes (knee jerk), muscle spasms, scissoring (involuntary crossing of the legs) and contractures (fixed or locked joints resulting from muscle shortening). Spasticity may present in levels from mild muscle stiffness to severe, uncontrollable spasms that may be painful.

Diagnosis of Spasticity
To diagnose spasticity, our team will evaluate your arm and leg movements, muscular activity and both the passive and active range of motion you can achieve. We will examine your history of medicine use and any other neurological problems in your family and may recommend an evaluation by a physical therapist to determine which muscles are involved.  

Treatment Options for Spasticity
Treatment for spasticity may include medications and we may also recommend injections of botulinum toxin (Botox®) into spastic muscles to weaken them and improve the range of motion.

Physical therapy and exercise is important to managing spasticity. We will ask you to perform regular muscle stretching and range-of-motion exercises to keep your muscles from further shortening and shrinking. 

Depending on the severity, we may also recommend various types of surgery:
  • Intrathecal baclofen therapy (IBT) in which a programmable pump and catheter directs the medications directly to the site of action within the spinal cord; this reduces the amount of the drug needed
  • Surgery for tendon release  or to cut the nerve-muscle pathway


Our physicians at Houston Methodist specialize in managing spasticity at the following convenient locations: