Spasticity and Multiple Sclerosis

Prevalence and Effects

Spasticity is a common symptom in multiple sclerosis (MS). Spasticity occurs when opposing groups of muscles contract and relax at the same time. Although individuals with MS most commonly experience spasticity in the extremities (legs, feet, arms, and hands), it may also occur in other parts of the body.

Spasticity in MS is a result of demyelination along the nerves of the brain and spinal cord that control movement. Sometimes the stiffness is slight and can be helpful by giving individuals more support to stand or turn. However, when spasticity is more pronounced, spasticity can become painful and greater energy is needed to perform daily activities.

Spasticity with MS can affect one’s quality of life, impacting areas such as relationships and employment. Individuals with spasticity may also report anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.

(1-not helpful, 5-very helpful)

Treatment and Management

Several strategies may be used to reduce the effects of spasticity. Initially, any other treatable issues that may contribute to this symptom should be addressed. Physical therapy, as well as certain devices (such as toe or finger spreaders and braces for the foot, hand, or wrist) may also be of great assistance.

When medication is needed to treat spasticity, several options are available. Baclofen is the most commonly prescribed medication to treat spasticity in MS and is usually very effective. Additional treatment strategies include relaxation techniques, acupuncture, and aquatic exercise. Any changes to one’s treatment or exercise routine should only be done under the supervision of one’s doctor.


Information provided by the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) and includes excerpts from their website. Resources provided by the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) and the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation: MS Focus (MSF).