Many of the medical personnel who have treated me use "spasticity" as a blanket term to describe the muscle tightness commonly felt by stroke survivors. However, the two therapists who work with me most frequently attribute some of my symptoms to "spasm." I am not only spastic, I am “spasmodic.”
What is the difference?
Spastic (spasticity) describes a neurological condition that causes the muscles to over-contract when in use, thus creating a sensation of tightness; spasticity is velocity-induced tightness.
Spasmodic (spasm) refers to a physical condition in which muscles contract because the nerves are irritated. Spasm can be in effect even when the muscles are at rest.
Why is this important?
Spasm can be corrected permanently. By breaking spasm, muscles can achieve a greater range of motion. This, in turn, allows greater options for strengthening the muscle. Muscle weakness is a common factor in both spasm and spasticity. Strengthening muscle counteracts both conditions.
I’ve been told spasticity will be with me the rest of my life; but I’ve also been told that strengthening muscles and repetitive use to form new neural pathways can reduce its impact to the point where it won’t bother me much of the time. This is what I’m working toward.
Next post: How the A-Team and I are breaking spasms and fighting spasticity.