I’m just getting comfortable on the couch to read a book, it’s been such a long day. Work was terrible, my husband and I got in a fight, this day just needs to be over. Needless to say, I’ve been looking forward to this moment, all day.
But my legs. There they start, with their nightly agony. Why can’t I ever get a break? Always feeling so tense, so painful, never letting me fully relax.
Spasticity is a fairly common symptom of multiple sclerosis and affects anywhere from 30-80% of individuals with MS. Spasticity means feelings of stiffness and involuntary muscle spasms. Spasticity is most common in the legs, but can be felt in other extremities as well. It can range from mild to severe and can be experienced as tightness of the muscles or extreme pain. There are two types of spasticity, flexor and extensor. In flexor spasticity, the hamstrings and hip flexors are mostly involved and the hips and knees are bent and are difficult to straighten. In extensor spasticity the quadriceps and a doctors are involved and the hips and knees remain straight.
Spasticity can be aggravated by many things. Extreme temperatures, humidity, sudden movements, position changes, infections, and even take clothing can increased episodes of spasticity.
Untreated spasticity could lead to significant issues including frozen or immobilized joints and pressure sores. Often times these same issues can be triggers of spasticity, so this can be a dangerous catch 22 scenario.
Treatment for spasticity often will include medications and many practitioners. Working together with your doctor, occupational therapist and physical therapist will be imperative in treating spasticity.
- Stretching– Doing daily stretching exercises can greatly benefit individuals suffering from spasticity. Some days these exercises may be able to be completed independently. While other days doing these exercises an individual might need some assistance. Working with a physical therapist to get started is often recommended if the spasticity is severe.
- Medications– There are several medications that are often used for spasticity. The muscle relaxant Baclofen is the most commonly prescribed medication. Baclofen does have significant side effects including dizziness, so using this medication while working may be difficult. There is also an option to get a pump implanted where Baclofen will be constantly delivered into the spinal cord. The pump, although invasive, greatly reduces side effects.
I experience spasticity often at night, usually in my right leg, oddly enough. It’s a rather uncomfortable feeling, especially when it happens suddenly. It often happens when I am very tired and not feeling well either. It has been difficult for me to find a trigger, but I find that when I consistently flex my legs, in a repetitive way, it will help the spasticity to subside. Using a foam roller on my legs will also help, if I feel up to doing so.
This was not on my agenda. I didn’t want to deal with MS tonight. I didn’t want to deal with anything tonight.
But here I am.
Because I have to. Because I want to feel better.