Navigate Up

Women's Center - A-Z Index

#
Y

Print This Page

Caring for muscle spasticity or spasms

Muscle spasticity, or spasms, causes your muscles to become stiff or rigid. It can also cause exaggerated, deep tendon reflexes, like a knee-jerk reaction when your reflexes are checked.

Alternative names

High muscle tone - care; Increased muscle tension - care; Upper motor neuron syndrome - care; Muscle stiffness - care

Self-care

These things may make your spasticity worse:

  • Being too hot or too cold
  • The time of day
  • Stress
  • Tight clothing
  • Bladder infections and spasms
  • Your menstrual cycle (for women)
  • Certain body positions
  • New skin wounds or ulcers
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Being very tired or not getting enough sleep

Your physical therapist can teach you and your caregiver stretching exercises you can do. These stretches will help keep your muscles from getting shorter or tighter.

Being active will also help keep your muscles loose. Aerobic exercise, especially swimming, and strength-building exercises are both helpful. Playing games and sports and doing daily tasks may also help. Talk with your doctor or physical therapist first before starting any exercise program.

Your doctor or nurse may place splints or casts on some of your joints to keep them from becoming so tight that you cannot move them easily. Make sure to wear these as your doctor or nurse tells you to.

Be careful about getting pressure sores from exercise or being in the same position in a bed or wheelchair for too long. 

Muscle spasticity can increase your chances of falling and hurting yourself. Be sure to take precautions so you do not fall.

Medicines that help with spasticity

Your doctor may prescribe drugs for you to take to help with muscle spasticity. Some common ones are:

  • Baclofen (Lioresal)
  • Dantrolene (Dantrium)
  • Diazepam (Valium)
  • Tizanidine (Zanaflex)

These medicines have side effects. Call your doctor if you have any of the following side effects:

  • Being tired during the day
  • Confusion
  • Feeling "hung over" in the morning
  • Nausea
  • Problems passing urine

Do not just stop taking these medicines, especially Zanaflex. It can be dangerous if you stop abruptly.

When to call the doctor

Pay attention to changes in your muscle spasticity. Changes may mean that your other medical problems are getting worse.

Always call your doctor or nurse if you:

  • Have problems with the drugs you are taking for muscle spasms
  • Cannot move your joints as much (joint contracture)
  • Have a harder time moving around or transferring out of your bed or chair
  • Have skin sores or skin redness
  • Your pain is getting worse

References

Krivickas LS. Motor neuron disease. In: Frontera, WR, Silver JK, eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2008:chap 125.

Updated: 5/29/2014

Joseph V. Campellone, MD, Division of Neurology, Cooper University Hospital, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com