(BPT) - A stroke can be a life-altering experience—one with long-term effects that can impact recovery. About 25-43% of U.S. stroke patients are affected by spasticity in the first year post-stroke. Spasticity is a condition where certain muscles in the arms and legs involuntarily contract or tense up, causing a significant impact on a person’s independence and ability to move freely. It can affect upper and lower limbs and can appear as a bent elbow or wrist, clenched fist, turned in foot, or curled toes.
When Syreeta experienced a severe stroke several years ago, her cousin and now caregiver, Fontessa, was fortunately home and rushed her to the hospital. The impact of her stroke left her completely incapacitated due to a significant brain stem bleed. Syreeta continued to experience residual effects that impacted the left side of her body, including her ability to move her fingers one by one or have her fingers work together to do something as simple as grasping a cup of water. After talking to her doctor about the discomfort and tightness in her hand, she was diagnosed with post-stroke spasticity.
“After surviving a stroke, many patients don’t realize they can go on to develop this secondary condition and it’s important to understand the signs of spasticity as it can progress and worsen over time,” said Dr. Monica Verduzco-Gutierrez, professor and chair of rehabilitation medicine at UT Health San Antonio. “My patients have emphasized how living with spasticity can make simple movements and tasks difficult or near impossible—from buttoning a shirt and brushing your teeth to even walking without help.”
In fact, an online survey of 810 people with spasticity reinforced how spasticity can impact many different areas of life. Specifically, about 42% reported stiffness/limited range of motion impacting their daily activities and quality of life. In addition, nearly 35% experienced abnormal posture, pain, or inability to sleep.2
Given this, caregivers like Fontessa play a key role in maintaining a patient’s quality of life, including assisting in daily activities, advocating on their behalf to their care team, helping reach treatment goals, and being aware if the condition worsens.
“I’ve seen firsthand the critical role that caregivers play in managing the health of a spasticity patient,” said Dr. Gutierrez. “It’s also important that patients have a healthcare provider on their care team who specializes in the full range of spasticity treatments, which could include physical or occupational therapies to help improve function and independence, oral medications to relax muscles in the body, and injections for when spasticity has developed in areas of the body.”
For more information about post-stroke spasticity and to find a specialist, visit DontTakeSpasticity.com.
 American Stroke Association. Let’s Talk About Spasticity After Stroke. https://www.stroke.org/-/media/stroke-files/lets-talk-about-stroke/life-after-stroke/ltas_spasticity_english_0419.pdf?la=en. Accessed March 31, 2021
 WE MOVE. (2008). Profile of Patients with Spasticity.