Symptoms of spasticity — including chronic muscle stiffness, pain, and jerkiness of voluntary movements — can interfere with your daily activities. Left untreated, these symptoms may significantly impact your quality of life.
A healthcare professional can work with you to create a treatment plan to help address the underlying cause of spasticity. In addition to following your treatment plan, consider the following ways to help improve your overall quality of life.
Assistive devices and home modifications may help you move around more easily and maintain your independence while living with spasticity.
A physical therapist or occupational therapist can recommend specific devices in the right sizes for you. They will also teach you how to use them.
Here are some devices you may consider:
- foot drop supports
- wrist supports
- walkers or canes
- reacher or grabber devices
- grab bars, especially in bathrooms
- shower benches
- raised toilet seats
- stools for dressing and getting ready
During physical therapy, your therapist will guide you through routines that help stretch your muscles.
Though stretching usually won’t improve your symptoms, it helps prevent your muscles from permanently shortening or shrinking. As a result, it will help prevent your symptoms from getting worse.
To make the most out of your stretching regimen, your physical therapist may suggest daily stretches you can do on your own at home. It can be uncomfortable getting started, but sticking with it can help reduce pain and fatigue in the long run.
When you stretch, make sure it doesn’t hurt or isn’t too uncomfortable. That might indicate the stretching is too much for you. If this happens, speak with your physical therapist and they can suggest modifications.
In addition to stretching, your physical therapist will also teach you exercises that can increase your range of motion. These exercises will help improve your ability to do daily activities.
As with stretching, your physical therapist will likely provide you with sets of exercises to do on your own in between your appointments.
Additionally, if your doctor gives you the go-ahead, you may consider adding other physical activities to your routine to help maintain strength, stamina, and flexibility. Examples include yoga, seated bicycling, and water aerobics.
While a spasticity diet plan doesn’t exist, making certain dietary shifts may help improve the chronic fatigue associated with spasticity.
One clinical trial, published in 2021, in adults with multiple sclerosis found that participants reported reduced fatigue and better quality of life after following either a paleolithic (paleo) diet or a diet low in saturated fats.
Both of these eating patterns emphasize whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and seeds. By replacing processed foods, you may feel better and have less fatigue.
After adopting either of these diets, some adults with spasticity who experienced chronic constipation or urinary tract infections (UTIs) reported better bladder and bowel functioning.
In addition to reducing fatigue and improving bladder and bowel functions, a diet that is made up mainly of whole foods and low in saturated fats can prevent other health conditions, like heart disease and cancer.
If you’re having trouble eating and swallowing as a result of spasticity, you should consult your doctor before modifying your diet. Talking with a healthcare professional or nutritionist, if you have access to one, before making any significant dietary changes can help prevent any nutritional deficiencies.
It’s estimated that more than 50 percent of people living with stroke or brain injuries experience sleep disorders. Other neurological conditions also make sleep more difficult. When you also have spasticity, the associated pain, discomfort, and nighttime fatigue may also lead to insomnia.
You can help make sure you get enough sleep by sticking to a regular schedule and avoiding exercise or caffeine too close to bedtime. If you continue to experience insomnia, your doctor may recommend treatments that can help.
There are a variety of oral medications and injections available to help relax neural pathways to your muscles and minimize spasticity symptoms.
It’s important to take medications as directed by a healthcare professional. If you experience
If your doctor recommends botulinum toxin (Botox) type A injections, it’s important to keep your follow-up appointments to help maintain your results.
While the physical symptoms of spasticity tend to be most noticeable, it’s important to address any underlying mental health needs you may have.
Chronic medical conditions are known to increase your risk of depression, according to the
In addition, some causes of spasticity, such as traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury, were found to increase the risk of anxiety and other mental health disorders in adults, according to a
Following your treatment plan can also benefit your mental health. For example,
Some adults living with spasticity may unintentionally isolate themselves due to changes in mobility as well as increased fatigue and pain. However, it’s important to maintain your social schedule as much as you can. Keeping up with friends and loved ones may make you feel better and promote mental well-being in the long run.
It’s vital to ask your friends and loved ones for help when you need it. Consider asking your family members to help you look for an in-home caregiver. A caregiver can help you safely navigate your daily tasks so you can maintain a certain level of independence.
Improving your quality of life with spasticity also includes seeing your neurologist if you feel that your current treatment plan isn’t working.
In some cases, if a muscle cannot be relaxed with oral muscle relaxants or Botox injections, your doctor may recommend surgery to release that muscle.
This type of surgery involves minimal cutting of muscles and won’t cut into the nerve-muscle pathways, which means the muscles won’t become weak. This may offer a more permanent solution to reducing spasticity symptoms.
However, keep in mind that doctors rarely choose to treat muscle spasticity with surgery.