Upper Extremity Spasticity

Understanding Upper Extremity Spasticity: What You Should Know

Upper extremity spasticity is a condition that is characterized by stiffness of muscles and the lack of motor control. It can be caused by a variety of conditions or injuries ranging from stroke and cerebral palsy to multiple sclerosis and traumatic brain injury. Treatment of this condition is often targeted at reducing or eliminating the spasticity. Understanding the type of spasticity and the underlying cause is important in finding the best treatment plan.

What is Upper Extremity Spasticity?

Upper extremity spasticity is a neuromotor disorder that causes stiffness of the muscles in the shoulder, elbow, and wrist. It is a common condition for those with stroke, cerebral palsy, brain injury, and multiple sclerosis. Patients that experience spasticity have difficulty controlling their movement, often resulting in uncontrollable spasms in the affected limbs.

What Causes Upper Extremity Spasticity?

The cause of upper extremity spasticity can vary depending on the underlying condition. Common causes of the condition include:

  • Stroke
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Spinal Cord Injury
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
  • Brain Tumors
  • Peripheral Nerve Injury

In some cases, there may be no obvious cause of spasticity, such as for idiopathic spasticity.

Signs and Symptoms of Upper Extremity Spasticity

The signs and symptoms of upper extremity spasticity can vary depending on the underlying condition and severity of the spasticity, but may include:

  • Stiffness in the shoulder, elbow, and wrist
  • Muscle spasms and/or contractures
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Pain and discomfort in the affected area
  • Weakness in the muscles
  • Difficulty controlling movements

Treatment of Upper Extremity Spasticity

The treatment plan for upper extremity spasticity depends on the underlying condition. Common treatments for spasticity include:

  • Physical and/or Occupational Therapy: Physical therapy and occupational therapy can help to improve range of motion and strength, as well as reduce spasms. Exercises can be tailored to the individual patient, depending on their needs. In addition, splints and other assistive devices may be used to reduce spasticity.
  • Medication: Oral medications, such as baclofen, can help to relax the muscles and reduce spasticity. Botox injections may also be used to temporarily reduce spasticity.
  • Surgery: For more severe cases, surgery may be recommended. This could include tendon relases, joint fusion, or other procedures.

It is important to speak to your doctor if you are experiencing any symptoms of upper extremity spasticity, as treatment can help reduce spasticity and improve your quality of life.