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Symptoms of Spasticity

Dr. Jeffrey Greenfield talks about treatment for spasticity

Symptoms of spasticity can range from mild to severe, and milder symptoms may be easily confused with other conditions. An accurate diagnosis is very important and should be made by experts in neuromuscular disorders (see Diagnosing and Treating Spasticity).  Symptoms may include:

  • Muscle stiffness
  • Awkwardness in walking (a jerky, stiff, or unnatural gait)
  • Inability to bend limbs (due to overactive tendon reflexes)
  • Uncontrollable muscle spasms, sometimes painful
  • Unusual angles to elbows, knees, and other joints
  • Scissoring (crossing) of the arms or legs
  • Repetitive jerky movements (called “clonus”)
  • Abnormal posture

Over time, untreated spasticity can lead to permanent contracting of muscles, which may lock joints into a single position. Symptoms of spasticity should be evaluated by neuromuscular experts at major medical centers. For children, find out more about the NeuroMotor Disorders Program at the Weill Cornell Pediatric Brain and Spine Center, or request an appointment by using our online form or calling 212-746-2363. For more information about spasticity in adults, see our Movement Disorders section.

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Reviewed by: Jeffrey Greenfield, Ph.D., M.D.
Last reviewed/last updated: August 2018