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Controlling the Muscle Spasms of Multiple Sclerosis

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How Does Physical and Occupational Therapy Help Spasticity?

A basic physical therapystretching program is the first step in treating spasticity linked to MS. A daily regimen of stretching can lengthen muscles to help decrease spasticity.

An occupational therapist may prescribe splinting, casting, and bracing techniques to maintain range of motion and flexibility.

If physical and occupational therapy do not adequately control the spasticity, medications may be added to the treatment plan.

What Drugs Are Used to Treat Spasticity?

Common drugs used to treat spasticity include the muscle relaxants baclofen and Zanaflex.

Another drug that might be used to treat spasticity is Valium, which is often helpful when taken at night to relieve spasms that interfere with sleep.

If medications taken orally are not effective, a pump can be surgically implanted to deliver the medication (such as the baclofen pump). Botulinum toxin (or Botox) can also be injected locally into the affected area to relax the muscles.

What Types of Surgery Are Available for Spasticity?

When other treatments fail, rhizotomy and tendon release are two surgical procedures used to treat spasticity. If spasticity is left untreated, there's an increased risk for complications such as contractures (frozen or immobilized joints) and pressure sores.

Rhizotomy involves surgically cutting away part of the spinal nerve. It is performed to relieve pain or decrease muscle tension.

Tendon release, also called a tenotomy, may be performed to help reduce the frequency or magnitude of the spasticity, depending on the age of the patient. The surgery involves cutting severely contracted tendons away from the muscles to which they're attached.

Tendon release may need to be repeated.

These surgeries are usually only done in extreme cases that do not respond to other treatments.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD on February 22, 2015
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