Upper Limb Spasticity

Upper Limb Spasticity
Upper Limb Spasticity

Overview Of Upper Limb Spasticity

Upper limb spasticity leaves muscles stiff or rigid. It is also known as unusual tightness or increased muscle tone.

Upper limb spasticity causes reflexes to be stronger or exaggerated.

This condition can interfere with speech, walking, movement, and many other daily activities.


Upper limb spasticity is mostly caused by damage to the part of the brain associated with movement under your control.

Damage to nerves that run from the brain to the spinal cord can also cause spasticity.

Symptoms include:

  • Exaggerated deep tendon reflexes
  • Abnormal posture
  • Finger, wrist, arm and shoulder sitting at an abnormal angle
  • Repetitive jerky motions (clonus)
  • Scissoring (crossing of the legs in the way the tips of scissors would close)
  • Deformity or pain in the affected area

Causes Of Upper Limb Spasticity

Causes include:

  • Adrenoleukodystrophy (a disorder that disrupts the breakdown of certain fats)
  • Brain damage caused by lack of oxygen
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Head injury
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Neurodegenerative illness
  • Phenylketonuria (a disorder where the body can’t break down the phenylalanine)
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Stroke

Exams & Tests

Your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask questions like

  • When was symptom first noticed?
  • How long has symptom lasted?
  • Is symptom always present?
  • What makes symptom worse?
  • How severe is symptom?
  • Which muscles are affected?
  • What makes symptom better?
  • What other symptoms are present?

Treatment Of Upper Limb Spasticity

After determining the cause of your spasticity, you may also be referred to a physical therapist.

Physical therapy involves different exercises, including muscle stretching and strengthening exercises to lessen the severity of symptoms.

Other treatments may include:

  • Medication to treat spasticity.
  • Injection of botulinum toxin into the spastic muscles.
  • Pumping medicine into the spinal fluid and nervous system.
  • Surgery to cut the nerve-muscle pathway or release the tendon.