What are spasms and stiffness?

Muscle stiffness and spasms are common MS symptoms, and are often described as 'spasticity'.

Muscle spasms or stiffness affect at least 20 per cent of people with MS at some time.

Drugs and therapies (including physiotherapy and occupational therapy) can help you manage these symptoms.

Spasticity

Spasticity means there is an increase in 'muscle tone' (resistance or tension in the muscle).

In other words, when the muscle is moved, there is more resistance to this movement than there normally would be. Muscles feel more rigid.

Health professionals sometimes talk about 'spasticity' when describing the muscle stiffness.
Women experiencing neck pain

Stiffness

Increased tone (resistance in the muscle) can mean muscles are slow to relax, and this can cause stiffness.

Depending on the muscles affected, this stiffness can make it difficult to perform delicate movements with the hands and fingers, or make larger movements difficult, which can affect walking, for example.

Spasms

When affected muscles stretch, spasticity may also cause them to jerk in an uncontrolled way – a spasm. If muscles jerk repeatedly, this is known as 'clonus', for example when a foot taps repetitively on the floor.

Some people with MS experience other spasms - sudden involuntary movements that can make the arms or legs move in different ways.

These can occur even without the muscle being stretched.

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