Spasms and Stiffness: Life with MS Spasticity
Last updated: March 2023
As I sit down to write this, my train of thought is constantly being interrupted. Not because of brain fog, like you might suspect, but because the muscles in my right leg won’t stop moving. Like many with multiple sclerosis, I have to endure what we call spasticity. With regards to MS, spasticity refers to two symptoms: uncontrollable muscle spasms and muscle stiffness. As you can imagine, these symptoms can be extremely annoying and even painful at times. There are some ways to battle them; however, the various methods can have mixed results.
Uncontrollable muscle spasms
As with all symptoms in multiple sclerosis, levels and types of spasticity can vary from person to person. In my case, I suffer primarily from uncontrollable muscle spasms. Usually, these occur in my legs and arms. These spasms will occur out of nowhere, often when I least expect it. I’ve included a small video here of one of my spasms (it’s most apparent at the end of the video). It may not look like much, if you aren’t looking for it, you might not even see it (I have this happen in public and much of the time no one even notices). That little bit of movement may also not seem like a big deal, but when it happens repeatedly, it becomes very annoying.
To me, it’s still crazy that muscles in my body can start moving without my control. It’s like I have these zombie limbs some of the time. It causes me to drop things, lose concentration, and overall just have trouble being comfortable. I’ve talked about my issues with painsomnia before, and I include these spasms with that. Imagine trying to sleep with some of your muscles moving uncontrollably, it’s not easy. Even if I’m sitting at my desk or on the couch, when this happens, it’s hard to be comfortable. It makes it hard to accomplish any task I might be working on, whether that’s housework, writing this article, or even sleeping.
While these uncontrollable spasms are my worst problem spasticity-wise, I am not immune to the issue of muscle stiffness. Seemingly random muscle stiffness is something that plagues a large number of those battling MS (some folks may not even realize it’s MS that is causing it). For me, it’s a tightness of the muscle that can make it hard to move. As with the spasms, this will often come on when I don’t expect it. Also affecting my arms and legs, it can actually make it hard for me to even move the muscles that are experiencing it. That can lead to all sorts of issues, from dropping things to falling. This tightness can also become pretty painful at times.
Trying to treat the spasticity
It’s crazy, right? I either can’t stop my muscles from moving or I can’t move them at all. Either way, it gives me a bizarre feeling that my body is betraying me. It’s as though my body has staged a mutiny! I have been able to fight back though (even though it really hasn’t resulted in a complete win for me). Like many, I have tried Baclofen, however, I didn’t have a great experience with it (my fatigue was exceptionally worse with it). These days, when my spasticity is really bad, I resort to medical marijuana which has been very helpful. I also like to consult this list of tips that MultipleSclerosis.net has compiled from its readers. There are still many days though when nothing seems to help and I have to grin and bear it. How about you? For those with MS, do you suffer from spasticity? If so, how do you deal with it? If you don’t have MS, thanks for taking the time to read a little about our disease, I hope it was eye-opening!
What does advocacy mean to you as someone living with multiple sclerosis? Please select all that apply: