Spasticity Management and Stroke Rehabilitation

Embolic stroke, showing a blockage lodged in a blood vessel.

Spasticity Awareness Week June 17 – 24, 2018

Spasticity Alliance

The National Stroke Association calls on everyone to raise awareness about spasticity, a post stroke disabling condition that affects 12 million people all over the world. In light of this the National Stroke Association has joined together with several organizations to form the Spasticity Alliance, which now has a web-sites in both English and Spanish.

Spasticity can also be caused by Cerebral Palsy (CP), Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) and more.

Signs of Spasticity

Spasticity Occurs when there is a breakdown in communication between the brain and the muscles, so that muscles contract painfully as a result of spasm and may remain that way. Attempts to stretch the muscles result in pain. In other words neurological conditions cause muscles to be too tight. For instance:

  • A person’s hand may be clenched shut in a tight fist and the person is unable to open their hand or their fingers.
  • The elbow may be bent and the person is unable to straighten it.
  • An arm may be pressed against the chest and the person is unable to move it.
  • A knee may be stiff and the person is unable to bend it.
  • Toes may be pointed and cannot unbend.
  • Muscles may be stiff or tight in the arms, legs or shoulders.

Spasticity Affects Daily Life

Arms and Fingers

If the person’s arms or fingers are affected, the person cannot grab or reach for things and this makes for difficulty with eating, dressing, brushing teeth, washing, bathing and even walking, especially if the person needs to use a cane, walker or a crutch. The person cannot open a door, pick up a phone, write, turn pages in a book, etc.

Legs

Walking can be difficult.

Sitting can be painful and difficult.

Caregiver

Spasticity also makes it very difficult for the caregiver to give assistance.

Treating Spasticity

Spasticity can be Treated with Neurological Rehabilitation

The earlier spasticity is recognized the better is the chance for rehabilitation and regaining use of the affected part of the body. If spasticity is not treated, muscles can become shorter and joints can become too tight. Some treatment methods are:

  • Wearing a brace on the affected arm or leg
  • Range of motion exercises
  • Gentle stretching exercises on the tight muscles
  • Movement exercises
  • Anti-spasmodic medicines
  • Injections
  • Surgery on the tendons, muscles and joints to restore movement
  • ITB Therapy is a programmable, battery-operated medical device that contains medication that can be delivered to treat symptoms of painful spasticity.

Aids to Cope with Managing Spasticity

  • Non slip strips on floor in shower and in the bath tub
  • Grab bars in the shower, bath tub and next to the toilet
  • Raised toilet seats
  • Soft toilet seats, as sitting on a hard plastic or wooden seat can set off spasms
  • Ramps to avoid using stairs
  • Chair for the shower – preferably made with some soft waterproof material, as sitting on a hard chair can set off spasms
  • A memory foam mattress can cushion the limbs.  A hard mattress can set off muscle spasms.
  • Walking aides like rollators, walkers, canes and crutches can be used only if hands and fingers are open. This is important, as walking can help the leg muscles. It is good to use a walker in case there is a sudden painful spasm in the leg, which could cause a fall so it is good to be holding on to the walker.
  • Otherwise, only a wheel chair can be used that can be pushed by a caregiver until there is enough rehabilitation to begin walking.

Ditmas Park Rehab and Care Center Brooklyn NY

Ditmas Park Rehab and Care Center in Brooklyn NY, a 5 star facility, is known for its outstanding stroke rehabilitation and spasticity management. Their highly skilled team of doctors, nurses and therapists work together to give the stroke patient the individualized care that he or she needs in order to restore as much as possible what they lost as a result of the stroke. Ditmas Park also uses integrated therapies like occupational, physical, speech, vestibular, cognitive therapies and also music and pet therapy that can do a lot to help in the healing of someone who suffered a stroke.

Brooklyn Hospitals near Ditmas Park Rehab and Care

New York Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital

NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn (formerly named NYU Lutheran Medical Center)

SUNY Downstate Medical Center – University Hospital of Brooklyn

NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County

Maimonides Medical Center

Conclusion

Spasticity is an after effect of a stroke that is sometimes overlooked and if not treated properly it can lead to other complications like shortened muscles or tight joints. Make sure you choose a stroke rehab for your loved one that includes spasticity management.

 

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