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What Is Spasticity?

Spasticity is muscle over-activity, appearing as the following:

  • Involuntary muscle contractions
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Awkward movements
  • Exaggerated reflexes

Spasticity is caused by injury to the part of the central nervous system that controls voluntary movements. The damage disrupts the signals between the nervous system and muscles, leading to increased muscle activity.

Spasticity may result from stroke, brain injury, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, or other neurological disorders.

Symptoms of Spasticity

Spasticity varies from mild muscle stiffness to severe, painful, and uncontrollable muscle spasms. Spasticity can also lead to contractures (abnormal joint positions), which may lead to deformity or inability to move the related body part.

Spasticity is often painful and can complicate activities of daily living. Reducing the barrier of spasticity can help you achieve more independence. Do not hesitate to contact our experts in spasticity management to help you.

Treatment Options

Spasticity can be managed in many ways. With different treatment options available, your care team will work with you to design and implement a treatment program tailored to your needs. Some people may benefit from only one treatment option, while others may benefit from combining two or more treatment options.

University of Utah Health's spasticity management program offers the following spasticity treatment options:

Physical & Occupational Therapy

  • Serial Casting
  • Bracing
  • Exercise and stretching
  • Therapeutic modalities

Oral Medications

  • Baclofen®
  • Zanaflex®
  • Tranxene®
  • Valium®
  • Dantrium®


Injection therapy provides temporary relief of spasticity. Options include:

  • Botulinum toxin eases muscle spasms when directly injected into the muscle.
  • Phenol is an anesthetic drug, which works as a nerve block.

Intrathecal Baclofen Therapy

A liquid form of baclofen is administered 24 hours a day directly into the fluid surrounding the spinal cord through an implantable pump and catheter system. A trial procedure is performed to determine the effect and benefits of this therapy for each patient.

Surgical Treatment

Neurosurgery and orthopaedic surgery procedures may also be performed to treat spasticity or correct deformities resulting from spasticity.

With life-changing events come immense challenges for everyone involved. The Rehabilitation Center at University of Utah Health exists to help you overcome these challenges. We are dedicated to helping you reclaim your life and the independence lost through injury or disease. We know you can emerge with confidence and thrive to participate in life with a new level of self-reliance.