Spasticity after spinal cord injury doesn’t have to weigh you down.
In fact, it’s completely manageable if you’re willing to put in the time and effort.
What Is Spasticity After Spinal Cord Injury?
Spasticity is when your muscles involuntarily contract, which can result in stiffness and jerky spasms.
It’s extremely common after spinal cord injury because communication between the brain and body gets disrupted.
Your body sends sensory information to your brain through the spinal cord. However, after a spinal cord injury, the sensory information cannot get past the injury site and reach the brain.
Instead, that stimuli is sent back down to your muscles, which causes them to involuntarily contract.
Additionally, because the muscles cannot receive signals from the brain to relax, they can stay contracted for prolonged periods.
To manage spasticity, you must focus on strengthening any spared neural connections in the spinal cord and promoting the regeneration of new connections through neuroplasticity.
Managing Spasticity After Spinal Cord Injury
The best way to reduce spasticity after spinal cord injury is to focus on self-care and develop healthy habits.
Stretching is essential for reducing any tightness or discomfort, but depending on the severity of your spasticity, you may need to seek other forms of treatment.
Spaciticity management can range from light stretching to invasive surgery. Generally, using a combintion of treatments provides the most effective results.
What works for one person may not work for another, so prepare to go through some trial and error.
Some of the best management interventions for spasticity after spinal cord injury include:
Physical therapists can teach you lots of different stretches and activities to reduce spasticity.
The more you practice moving, the less hyperactive your muscles will become.
Physical therapy will increase range of motion in your joints and teach you how to isolate certain parts of your body.
It also takes the guess work out of exercising because every task is guided to ensure a safe and productive workout.
Many spinal cord injury patients take muscle relaxants to temporarily inhibit muscle contractions.
The most commonly prescribed muscle relaxant is Baclofen. Others include Tizanidine, Clonidine, and Diazepam.
Because oral medications are swallowed, they affect the entire body. Common side effect include nausea, fatigue, and dizziness.
Botox is a nerve blocker, meaning that it blocks nerve signals that cause muscle contractions.
Unlike oral medications, Botox is directly injected into tight muscles for targeted spasticity relief.
It’s important to understand that muscle relaxants and nerve blockers are only temporary treatments. They’ll help provide short-term spasticity relief, but will not be treating the underlying problem.
The effects of Botox generally last between 3-6 months. During that time, spinal cord injury patients should take advantage of their reduced spasticity and focus on intensive physical therapy to promote long-term spasticity relief.
If spasticity is severe, and all other management interventions prove ineffective, surgery may be recommended.
One option is to an intrathecal baclofen pump surgically implanted under the skin in the abdomens. It continuously delivers baclofen directly into the fluid surrounding your spinal cord.
Intrathecal baclofen delievery results in fewer side effects than oral baclofen because it does not enter the bloodstream and is taken in much smaller doses.
Another surgery to treat spasticity after spinal cord injury involves implanting an electrode array onto the spinal column. It releases electrical currents that mimic brain signals to stimulate nerve activity below the injury site.
Treating Spasticity After Spinal Cord Injury
Spasticity after spinal cord injury can develop for years before it becomes bothersome.
But don’t wait until it gets inconvenient or painful.
Prevantative management is key to making sure that spasticity doesn’t negatively affect your quality of life after spinal cord injury.
Hopefully, this article helped you better understand why you may be experiencing spasticity after spinal cord injury and how to manage it. Good luck!