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You don’t have to put up with symptoms of spasticity -- there are treatments that can help. Oral medications and injections are most common. But combining these with complementary or alternative therapies is often the best way to ease your symptoms and gain more independence. Here’s what you need to know.

Physical Therapy

A physical therapist is a specialist who can show you specific exercises and movements to strengthen muscles and help you gain flexibility and mobility. They’ll test your muscle tone, resistance, strength, and coordination. They’ll also ask about any day-to-day challenges spasticity causes.

Your physical therapist will:

Stretch your muscles gently over time to make them longer. This improves flexibility, wards off contraction and boosts range of motion.

Strengthen muscles weakened by spasticity. Usually the focus is on muscles that perform the opposite movement of the muscle that is spastic.

You’ll do these movements on your own or with a family member or friend at home.

A physical therapist can also fit you with braces, splints, or casts that help stabilize muscles or joints and  increase motion and flexibility.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapists are experts in changes you can make in your everyday life to keep you comfortable and help you be more independent. They focus more on small muscles. They can teach you different ways to do things like dress, eat, and shower. They can also recommend assistive devices for your home that make it easier to use what’s already there.

They might suggest:

Aids that help you get dressed. These include long-handled shoehorns, shoe/boot removers, and elastic shoelaces that keep your shoes on without you having to tie them.

Grooming aids. Easy-grip handles for toiletry products and long-handled sponges for bathing are two options.

Position adjustments. Examples include lowering the bar in your closet or keeping appliances you use a lot on the counter.

Speech Therapy

Spasticity sometimes affects how well you speak and swallow. A speech therapist, also called a speech language pathologist, can help train the muscles you need for talking and eating.

 

Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy uses water to promote relaxation in your muscles. A physical therapist can help guide you through stretches in the water. Studies suggest hydrotherapy may help lower the amount of medications you need to treat your spasticity.

Electrical Stimulation

This therapy uses electrical pulses to stimulate weak muscles that oppose stronger spastic ones. Most often, therapists use it to help with flexing the ankles for walking and to stretch out spastic fingers.

Electroacupuncture

This is when electrical currents are sent through thin needles to stimulate specific acupuncture points in your body. Typically, it takes 1-hour sessions two to three times a week for at least several weeks before you’ll see results.

Biofeedback

Biofeedback works by sending a signal -- usually a sound -- through an electrical monitor when a spastic muscle relaxes. The electrical monitor senses this through electrodes or finger sensors. The hope is that your brain slowly learns to relax the spastic muscle on purpose and lessen spasticity severity.

Show Sources

Photo Credit: rahhal / Getty Images

SOURCES:

UPMC: “Spasticity Treatment.”

Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada: “Spasticity, Mobility Problems and Multiple Sclerosis.”

Medscape: “Spasticity Treatment & Management.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Spasticity.”

American Association of Neurological Surgeons: “Spasticity.”

Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair: “The Use of Hydrotherapy for the Management of Spasticity.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Electroacupuncture Treats Spasticity, Pain, Headaches and Nausea.”