Upper extremity spasticity (arm & hand spasticity)

Also known as: arm spasms, upper limb spasticity, upper limb spasms, elbow spasticity, forearm spasticity, wrist spasticity, hand spasticity, flexion contractures.

What is upper extremity spasticity?

Upper extremity spasticity (also known as arm and hand spasticity) refers to uncontrolled and abrupt movements known as spasms that frequently occur in the arms or hands. The spasms are often accompanied by stiff arm muscles, as well as trouble with arm coordination or function.

What causes arm and hand spasticity?

Arm spasticity occurs due to nerve damage. The condition is frequently the result of another medical condition, such as multiple sclerosis, stroke, a spinal cord injury, a brain injury or cerebral palsy.

What are the symptoms of upper extremity spasticity?

Spasticity of the upper extremity ranges from mild to very disabling. The affected muscles may be over-active and cause joint contractures (stiff joints). The most common presentation includes a flexed elbow and clenched fist, with forearm rotated away from the patient and wrist flexed. The position of the weak and spastic arm/hand creates a functional, hygenic and cosmetic problem.

What are arm and hand spasticity care options?

Therapy, medication and surgery are usually used together to address upper extremity spasticity.

In all patients with upper extremity spasticity, therapy to prevent contractures (tight joints) is necessary.

  • Therapy for spasticity includes stretching tight muscles and joints, strengthening weakened muscles and using splints to improve and maintain good joint position.
  • Medication can also be prescribed to treat spasticity.
  • Surgery can be considered to improve mobility, self-care, hygiene, and the appearance of the affected arm/hand, but is usually only a part of the care plan.

Reviewed by: Trevor J Resnick, MD

This page was last updated on: October 08, 2021 03:14 PM

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