Relieving Spasticity With MS
Treating spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis can include:
- Stretching exercises
- Physical therapy
The goal of treatment is to help people with MS do more of the things they want and need to do. Treatment also helps to reduce pain or discomfort. This is done by reducing stiffness and the amount of work needed to perform daily activities.
Reducing spasticity gives a person with MS greater freedom of movement, and can increase strength and coordination. Occasionally, spasms in the legs may give you a false sense of security when you stand. Often, this is not because you have gained more strength, but because the spasms are making your legs feel stiff when you stand. In this case, spasms can be helpful.
If you are being treated for spasms and are no longer able to stand, transfer, or walk, you should discuss this with your medical team. If spasms and spasticity don't cause you pain or interfere with daily activities, you and your doctor may decide that you don't want to treat them.
Like all treatment, managing spasms and spasticity should be discussed with your healthcare team. You should be involved in the decision-making process and should feel comfortable discussing any and all symptoms you may be experiencing. Ask about the possible side effects of spasm medications. Spasticity is not something that people with multiple sclerosis simply have to endure, but is rather something that can be dealt with and resolved.
Spasticity is usually treated with muscle relaxants and tranquilizers. Baclofen (Lioresal®), the most commonly prescribed medication for this symptom, may be taken orally or, in severe cases, injected into the spinal cord.
Tizanidine (Zanaflex®) has been used for years in Europe and is now approved in the United States as well. It appears to function similarly to baclofen. Diazepam (Valium®), clonazepam (Klonopin®), and dantrolene (Dantrium®) can also reduce spasticity.
Although its beneficial effect is temporary, physical therapy may also be useful and can help prevent the irreversible shortening of muscles known as contractures. Surgery to reduce spasticity is rarely appropriate in MS.