Spasticity FAQ

What is spasticity?

Spasticity is a condition in which muscles overreact to stretching and are unable to relax. Affected muscles become stiff, making it difficult to walk, move, or speak.

What causes spasticity?

Spasticity is caused by damage to the nerve pathways that send messages from the brain to the spinal cord telling muscles to relax.

Can spasticity be cured?

Though there is no cure for spasticity, many options are available to help manage its symptoms and improve your child’s quality of life.

What medications are available to help manage my child’s spasticity?

The two main types of medications used to treat spasticity are botulinum toxin and baclofen. Botulinum toxin is injected into a muscle. Baclofen may be given by mouth or by injection. Some children can’t tolerate baclofen because it makes them too drowsy; for some of those children, a baclofen pump may be implanted to allow for a constant dose of baclofen to be delivered directly to the spine.

What is selective dorsal rhizotomy, and how is it used to treat spasticity?

Neurosurgeons at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford have helped many children with the selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) procedure, often with dramatic improvement, especially in younger children and those with lower-limb spasticity. Using minimally invasive techniques, the neurosurgeon makes a small incision in your child’s back. With precise tools viewed under a microscope, the surgeon can enter the spine to determine which nerve roots are preventing muscles from relaxing. The impaired nerve roots are cut, so that they no longer inhibit the normal relaxation response to stretching.

How is deep brain stimulation (DBS) used to treat spasticity?

In this novel treatment, computer technology is used to locate the areas of the brain that are misfiring and then modify those areas with impulses from an implanted electronic device.

Spasticity FAQ - Stanford Medicine Children's Health