Patient and staff in the spasticity program

Spasticity Program

Medical Reviewer: Cassandra List, MD
Last Updated: April 9, 2024

What is spasticity?

Spasticity is abnormal muscle tightness or stiffness due to prolonged muscle contraction. Spasticity can affect muscles in any area of the body and result in difficulty with movement.

What are the symptoms of spasticity?

Symptoms of spasticity can include:

  • Increased muscle tone
  • Muscle Spasms
  • Pain or discomfort
  • Problems with self care and hygiene
  • Abnormal posture
  • Contractures
  • Bone and joint deformities
  • Decreased quality of life

What causes spasticity?

Spasticity is caused by damage to the central nervous symptom, which includes the brain and spinal cord.

Conditions that are associated with spasticity include:

How is spasticity treated?

Spasticity is usually treated with a multidisciplinary approach from your physician and rehabilitation team. Your physician may suggest appropriate medical interventions such as, oral medication, localized injections, and/or medication delivered through an implanted pump.

Your rehabilitation team will focus on conservation management such as, positioning, serial casting, and/or range of motion exercises. Additionally, your team will emphasize promoting active movement and employing strategies for movement and self-care, despite the presence of spasticity.

Physical, Occupational, and Speech Therapy

Your rehabilitation team focuses on active and functional movement patterns despite the presence of spasticity. Your team will assist you with strategies to increase independence with mobility, ADLs, and speech through physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy.

Additionally, your team will work with you and your caregivers to determine the best positions for you while you are sitting or lying down to prevent any secondary complications from spasticity.


Medications may be prescribed by your physician to help decrease your spasticity, which can reduce pain and allow for more free movement. Your physician will implement a customized medication plan appropriate for your symptoms.

Intrathecal medications

Intrathecal medications are delivered by an implanted pump that delivers medication directly into your spinal cord to help reduce spasticity. Patients must undergo a screening test to determine if they are appropriate prior to having the device implanted.

Surgical treatment

In rare cases, surgical treatment may be performed due to severe spasticity in the legs. This procedure is most commonly used in patients with cerebral palsy.

What are the expected outcomes?

The expected outcomes in spasticity treatment are increased independence with mobility and self-care and reduction in pain. Additionally, education components of treatment are provided to prevent secondary complications related to spasticity.

Our expert team

Medical Reviewer

Cassandra List, MD

Medical Director of the Stroke Program, Medical Leader for the Spasticity Management Program and the Brain Injury Day Treatment Program
Cassandra List, MD is board certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation. She completed her medical degree at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago and her residency at Medical College of Wisconsin. After her residency, Dr. List completed one of the only Neurorehabilitation and Spasticity Management Fellowships in the country, which consisted of an extra year of extensive, specialized training focusing on neurorehabilitation and the use of botulinum toxin injection and intrathecal baclofen pumps to optimize function. At Brooks Rehabilitation, Dr. List works both in the inpatient rehabilitation hospital as well at an outpatient clinic with a focus on neurorehabilitation and spasticity management.
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