What is Spasticity?

Spasticity is a feeling of muscle stiffness and/ or involuntary muscle contractions. This can occur as a result of a brain injury, stroke or if you have a progressive neurological condition such as Multiple Sclerosis.

Symptoms/ Triggers

Spasticity affects everyone differently depending on the type of injury or condition you have. It can cause pain, muscle weakness and restrict your movements.

Spasticity can fluctuate and can be exacerbated by certain triggers such as infection e.g. urine infection, constipation, pain e.g. ingrown toenail, stress/ heightened emotions, being uncomfortable from clothing or seating and extremes in temperature.


There are various different treatment options for spasticity that can be discussed with your medical and therapy team.  This will depend on how the spasticity is affecting you and what your goals for treatment are e.g. to make personal care easier, to reduce pain, to improve your ability to transfer or walk.

Treatment can involve taking medication that is aimed at relaxing your muscles or having Botulinum Toxin injections directly into the muscles that have spasticity to help them relax. The medical treatments should also be done in conjunction with therapy (Physiotherapy and/or Occupational Therapy). This can involve exercise, stretching of your muscles, wearing splints or orthotics and reviewing positioning in your bed or wheelchair.

The MS Trust has a clear explanation of spasticity and spasms, which is a useful resource.

This information was provided by Hayley King, a Senior Physiotherapist at Queen Alexandra Hospital.

Tips for self-managing spasticity:

Avoid extremes of temperature if possible; in hot weather stay cool by using a damp towel on neck, fan etc.

Take good care of your nails

Move your position regularly/ get help to re-position in the bed or chair to ensure you are comfortable and to protect your skin

Wear loose comfortable clothing

Eat healthy balanced diet and stay hydrated to help avoid getting constipated or getting a urine infection

Take medication as prescribed to help manage spasticity and pain

If your Physio/ OT has set you up with an exercise programme or provided you with splints to wear, continue with this regularly to help maintain your flexibility and strength. Try to stay active!