Strokes are not caused by muscle spasms- however, in many cases, stroke survivors will experience some level of muscle spasticity- or muscle spasms.
Keep in mind that no matter what the level of spasticity you are experiencing, there are treatments that are available to you.
Why Does Muscle Spasticity Occur?
While muscle spasms are common, muscle spasticity associated with strokes is often more severe. Strokes occur when a clot or break in a particular blood vessel causes a disruption in blood flow to an area of the brain.
This results in the brain cells in that particular area dying- which can cause an adverse effect on memory and/or movement.
When these brain cells die and the brain changes, an interruption in the flow of messages between the muscles and the brain can cause a very mild to an extremely severe level of spasticity-or muscle spasms- as well as stiffness and tightness of the muscles.
You must keep in mind that most survivors of strokes do have some degree of muscle stiffness and tightness that typically ranges from severe to mild.
Tips for Seeking Treatment
Of course, no matter what the level of muscle spasticity you are experiencing, you should definitely seek treatment.
The proper treatment can make all activities, including caregiving, school, work, and other activities much easier.
Treatment can give you an increased sense of control and comfort, which will allow you to put everything into perspective.
While most people can keep their muscle spasticity under control perfectly fine with oral medication in conjunction with occupational and physical therapy or even injection therapy- there are some that state that these treatments bring with them side effects that are intolerable or just don’t work for them at all.
You should speak with a specialist in the area of muscle spasticity in order to explore some of the other options and to find the one that is best for you.
Treating Severe Muscle Spasticity
As stated above, most survivors of strokes will be able to keep their muscle spasticity under control with oral and/or injected medications in conjunction with occupational and physical therapy- some do find that these treatments are not effective for them or the medications have side effects that they are unable to deal with.
Therefore, you will need to see an expert in spasticity treatment in order to find out what all of your options are to treat your muscle spasticity and which would work best for you.
You must know that at this time, there has been no cure established for this condition- but there are many different options for treatment and managing your signs and symptoms. Following is an outline of a few of those options:
This form of therapy for treating spasticity can occur at a hospital or clinic or can even be done in your home.
This particular therapy encompasses speech, physical, and/or occupational therapy. You may need one, two, or even all three- depending upon what areas of your brain were affected by the stroke and the spasticity.
In some cases- especially those with mild cases of this condition- oral medications are helpful for treating the signs and symptoms of spasticity associated with stroke.
Of course, this particular treatment is only used in severe cases, but there is a form of neurosurgery that is known as neurodestructive surgeries. These include one that is known as selective dorsal rhizotomy where the dorsal- or sensory- nerve roots will be destroyed.
This particular type of therapy is typically used to treat specific muscle groups, such as one of your hands, feet, or shoulders. This allows a concentrated dose of medication to be placed into a specific area that requires treatment.
In addition to neurosurgery, there are other surgeries known as orthopedic surgeries. These include osteotomies, in which a bone will be cut in order to change the way it is aligned and soft tissue procedures, such as tendon transfers.
IBT therapy also referred to as the Baclofen pump, is an adjustable and reversible treatment for severe cases of muscle spasticity associated with stroke.
A pump will be surgically placed and a catheter will deliver a liquid form of the medication baclofen directly to the spinal fluid around the spinal cord- where it is needed.
In order to determine which treatment is the best one for you, evaluation by a physician specializing in the management of muscle spasticity conditions must be sought out.
One of the best things to do is to start out by keeping a diary of your signs and symptoms and the effect they have on you and your life.
You should write out what you are experiencing, what you were doing when the symptoms occurred, how long it lasted, what time of day, and any other details that you can think of.
This will go a long way in assisting you and your physician in determining the best course of treatment for you.
You should keep your diary for at least a week before going to your physician. This will give him or her a picture of your symptoms and perhaps establish a pattern.
You can do this manually with pen and paper, on your computer, or even find a notes app for your phone so that you can do it on the go.
In addition to the spasticity diary, your physician will perform a physical examination as mentioned above as well as collect a full medical and family history.
Both of these together can help your physician to determine the level of spasticity you are dealing with as well as any triggers.
Tips for Living with Muscle Spasticity
While you can easily manage your spasticity symptoms with assistive devices, another thing you should consider is home adaptations.
These will help to keep you safe and help you to avoid any falls related to your muscle spasticity. Your physical and/or occupational therapists can help to recommend the assistive devices that will best benefit you as well as any ways to ensure the proper fit and maintain these devices.
Following are some of the most common home adaptations to ensure safety at home:
- Raised toilet
- Shower/Tub bench
- Grab bars
- No-slip strips on the bottom of the tub
- Wheelchairs, braces, canes, and walkers
Finally, you must always follow any recommendation from your physical and/or occupational therapist regarding any of your safety needs or limitations- never try to push yourself too far.