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Spasticity is a muscle control condition that causes an abnormal increase in muscle tone or stiffness. Houston Methodist’s highly skilled team of experts use an integrated approach to treating spasticity and related neurological disorders. 

Houston Methodist’s multidisciplinary team is committed to providing comprehensive, customized treatment strategies for spasticity.  

Spasticity is typically caused by damage or trauma to the muscle-control nerve paths in the brain or spinal cord, and can occur with other conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, stroke, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and metabolic diseases

Symptoms can interfere with daily communication, movement and comfort. Specialists at Houston Methodist’s Movement Disorders Clinic can design a personalized treatment plan to help manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.  

Diagnosing & Treating Spasticity

How is spasticity diagnosed?

Diagnosis begins with evaluating arm and leg movements, muscular activity and your passive and active range of motion. Your doctor will talk with you about your medication history and any other neurological problems in your family, and may recommend an evaluation by a physical therapist to determine which muscles are involved. 

Symptoms of spasticity can range from mild muscle stiffness to severe, uncontrollable spasms that may be painful. Symptoms include: 


  • Increased muscle tone (hypertonicity) 
  • Rapid muscle contractions (clonus) 
  • Exaggerated deep tendon reflexes or knee jerk 
  • Muscle spasms 
  • Involuntary crossing of the legs 
  • Fixed or locked joints due to shortened muscles

What treatments are available?

Treatment for spasticity may include medications and injections of botulinum toxin (Botox®) into spastic muscles to weaken them and improve the range of motion. Physical therapy and exercise are also important to manage spasticity — regular stretching and range-of-motion exercises help prevent further muscle shortening and shrinking.  

Depending on the severity of symptoms, surgery may be appropriate. Procedures may include: 


  • Intrathecal baclofen therapy (IBT) in which a programmable pump and catheter directs the medications directly to the site of action within the spinal cord, which reduces the amount of medication that’s needed.  
  • Surgery for tendon release or to cut the nerve-muscle pathway. 

What if I need advanced care or a second opinion?

Accurate diagnosis is key in managing spasticity. Houston Methodist specialists will pinpoint the cause of your symptoms and build a personalized treatment plan to restore your quality of life and relieve your symptoms.

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