Spasticity is a form of hypertonia, or increased muscle tone. This results in stiff muscles which can make movement difficult or even impossible.
Spasticity may affect any muscle group in the body however there are some common patterns that are seen in cerebral palsy.
Effect on the upper limbs (arms and hands)
If spasticity affects one or both of the arms it can lead to:
Spasticity in these areas can lead to difficulties with tasks involving the hands and the arms:
It may also affect a person’s ability to use their arms for balance which can lead to difficulty standing and walking.
Effect on the lower limbs (legs)
If spasticity affects one or both of the legs it can lead to:
Spasticity in the muscles of one or both legs may affect a person’s ability to:
Effect on speech
Spasticity can also be present in smaller muscles or muscle groups such as the tongue, facial muscles or vocal folds. Spasticity in these areas can result in:
This can impact a person’s ability to communicate using speech and may mean that alternative methods of communication (such as pictures, symbols or voice generating devices) are used.
Although the injury to the brain that causes spasticity does not change over time, the effects of spasticity on the body can result in changes. Effects of spasticity over time:
An accurate and comprehensive assessment is important in determining the presence, severity and impact of spasticity. It is also important in evaluating an individual’s response to spasticity management intervention. When assessing spasticity, a clinician will assess:
A clinician will also complete: