Spasticity is a common symptom in MS. It is a tightness or stiffness of the muscles – occurring
typically in the legs (calf or thigh), groin, and buttocks. Although less common, some
individuals may experience spasticity in their back. These are all muscles that help people to
stand and balance in an upright position.
Spasticity in MS is a result of demyelination along the nerves of the brain and spinal cord that
control movement. Sometimes the stiffness caused by spasticity is slight and can actually be
helpful by giving individuals more support to stand or turn. Mild spasticity is not painful.
However, when spasticity is more severe, it can become painful. More energy is needed to
perform daily activities when spasticity is more pronounced, causing discomfort and limiting
A very important strategy in spasticity control is daily exercise or, physical therapy that is
applied for a very long time. A physiotherapist can train a patient how to "stretch" the affected
muscles at home.
Once exercise and devices have been employed, medication may be needed to further reduce
spasticity. Baclofen is the most commonly prescribed medication to treat spasticity in MS and
is usually very effective. It may be taken orally, or for individuals with more severe spasticity,
given via an implanted pump that provides the medicine directly into the spinal fluid. Dosage
often varies with each person and needs to be carefully monitored – since too much can cause
fatigue and weakness, and too little is not effective. One benefit of the pump is that by going
directly into the spinal fluid, a much smaller dose is needed to accomplish the desired effect.