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Posts Tagged ‘SCI’

I put together a little video about my latest skiing adventure. I hope you get as much chuckle from watching it as I did making it!

Skiing

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When I was a kid I heard the expression, “Can’t you sit still? You must have ants in your pants!” I heard that expression a lot, especially from my parents. It may have been in church, school, the grocery store or the car, but some part of me was always moving. I smile when watching my youngest daughter sit anywhere because she does exactly what I use to do. Whether bouncing her knee or ankle, or tapping her toes, some part of her is always moving.

But prior to my injury, I did have control over my muscle movements if I chose to. After my injury the term “spastic” took on a whole new meaning for me.

People with spinal cord injuries will have muscle spasticity ranging from mild to severe. My spasticity is very mild and doesn’t create many problems for me. Mine usually occurs when lying down. For instance, I am lying in bed typing this blog on my laptop, and my legs will occasionally jump, or spasm.

There are many forms of spasticity. “Extensor spasms” are when the legs straighten out and become rigid. I was in college with a man that would experience extensor spasms so severely in his back and legs that he had to be strapped into his wheelchair because his spasms would literally through him to the floor. There are also “Flexor spasms” which act just the opposite, pulling the legs upward toward the chest into the fetal position. Then there are “Clonus spasms” which are repetitive jumping of muscles. These often occur in the ankles which will cause repeated bouncing of your feet on the wheelchair foot rest.

According to doctors, there are both beneficial and detrimental effects to spasticity. On the detrimental side of the scale, spasms can interfere with quality of life by throwing off balance, working against transfers, disrupting sleep and contributing to pain. There are some beneficial aspects to spasticity also such as maintaining muscle mass, stimulating blood flow and lessening the inevitability of Osteoporosis.

Since I know many people in wheelchairs, I see all types of spasticity and all levels of severity. Relating to the spasms that I have, I consider them mostly to be a nuisance. For instance, if I am pushing my wheelchair over rough terrain, my legs will often start to spasm bouncing my feet off my footrest. So I have to stop, pull my feet back up, and then continue on again. There are straps of course that would keep my feet in place, but I look at that as just one more hindrance to deal with every time I want to transfer into or out of my wheelchair.

There are many treatments for spasticity. Doctors usually start with the noninvasive procedures such as medications or stretching exercises. Speaking for myself, I try to incorporate stretching exercises into my daily routine, as a means to control spasms. For one thing I look at exercise as the most beneficial method without any negative side effects. Depending on how severe a person’s spasticity is, stretching may or may not help. The one thing to remember about stretching, for it to be the most effective, is that it needs to be done almost as a yoga exercise in length of time, and become a consistent part of your daily routine.

Medications given are usually the type to lessen pain–the less pain, the less spasticity a person will experience. Any medications should be discussed thoroughly with your doctor to learn about all possible side effects. I have chronic back pain which may or may not be the result of muscle spasms. I have tried numerous medications to lessen my pain: however, in my thinking, the minimal reduction in pain I receive is not worth the side effects.

There are also more invasive treatments available such as an “intrathecal catheter and pump device” which is implanted under the skin. These pumps contain pain medication that directly targets nerve cells in the spinal cord and can be administered in smaller doses with less severe side effects. Of course this would mean more surgery, ongoing maintenance and even pump replacement about every five years.

There are also procedures called nerve blocks and trigger point injections. Believe it or not, Botox injections may also help reduce spasms and pain by paralyzing the muscle. I know people that have had nerve blocks done with some good success for muscle spasms and pain. In my case, because of the way I was put back together, nerve blocks are out of the question.

So when it comes to spasticity that a person experiences, yes there are many options to help lessen them. I say go for the therapeutic stretching exercises and only use meds or surgery as a last resort. But once again, the choice is yours.

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