Spasticity is one of the most common — and challenging — symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS). According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, an estimated 80 percent of people with MS have spasticity, involuntary muscle spasms or stiffness that interfere with normal movement. Spasticity is also the top symptom reported by members of MyMSTeam.
To learn more about this common issue, MyMSTeam talked with Aaron Boster, M.D., a board-certified neurologist and president of The Boster Center for Multiple Sclerosis in Columbus, Ohio. His YouTube channel covers many aspects of treating and living with MS, including spasticity.
Symptoms of spasticity range from occasional, mild muscle tightness to severe, uncontrolled muscle spasms or cramps. They can occur anywhere in the body, but typically affect the legs. “Some people’s legs get stiff just at night,” Dr. Boster said. For others, “It’s the bane of existence and almost defines their day-to-day lives.”
“Spasticity is my worst symptom, so far,” said one member of MyMSTeam. Another member said they can’t “sit for extended periods of time, drive for any distance, or get a good night’s sleep. I’m constantly repositioning my body to find a position that doesn’t add to my discomfort.”
What Does MS Spasticity Feel Like?
When your arms or legs don’t work properly — or your body acts in painful, unpredictable ways — it can be debilitating. Members of MyMSTeam who suffer from spasticity describe the experience:
“Feels like I’m walking in quicksand.”
“I walk like a robot.”
“My right leg kicks out without warning.”
“One big tense-up that won’t release.”
“Really, really tight muscles that no amount of stretching helps.”
“Burning, cramping, and spasms that are so severe, it feels like my muscles are ripping away from my bones.”
“My left leg feels like I’m wearing a concrete shoe.”
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