Sunday, October 05, 2008 JennW, Community Member, asks

Q: Awful leg spasms and stiffness upon standing and at bed time if I move. Is this spasticity?

My doctor suspects I have MS.  Spinal MRI revealed white matter at two locations.  Currently awaiting results of spinal fluid and brain MRI.  Doctor has prescribed Tizanidine for spasms. The spasms are worse in my left leg.  My leg tightens and pulls my toes upward. It seems the right side pulls the toes down and inward.  Numbness goes down my arm and into my hand.  It lasts about 30 seconds.  It's extremely uncomfortable.  I can't stand without assistance during the "episode".  I don't think this drug works, although I think it may reduce the intensity.   Thank you for any insight.

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Answers (7)
Lisa Emrich, Health Guide
10/ 5/08 1:02pm

Hi Jenn,


Welcome to HealthCentral.  I'm sorry to hear that you are experiencing such painful symptoms right now.  And the waiting for an official diagnosis can be agonizing.


The drug Tizanidine is certainly one of the drugs used to address spasticity in MS.  Here's a brief rundown of other drugs used for spasticity as well (scan down the page).  In reading the descriptions, it appears that Tizanidine must build up in your system and doesn't work immediately.


I started using Baclofen in the spring and found that it really helps, but did have to start at a low dose and gradually build up.  When the symptoms began to subside, then we knew that we were on the right tract and I continued to increase dosage until achieving optimum results. 


Some folks with MS have increased spasms and spasticity during an exacerbation and sometimes a round of steroids helps to calm those symptoms.  But only your doctor can determine if that's right for you.  It wasn't until after the results of my lumbar puncture came back that my neurologist ordered a 5-day round of Solumedrol. 


I hope you begin to feel much better soon.  Come back and let us know how you're doing.  Any if you have any more questions, please feel free to ask away.  There are lots of folks here who have been right where you are now.  You are not alone.

Merely Me, Health Guide
10/ 8/08 7:33am

Hey there


I am so sorry you are going through this.  Spasticity is very difficult to endure and it is quite often painful too.  When I have it, it feels like my muscles are large rubber bands that some tormentor is stretching beyond my capacity. 


Lisa has already given you an excellent answer and complete with medication choices so I will just talk about my personal experience with having this symptom.  Prior to my official diagnosis I was experiencing spasticity and I didn't know what it was or what was happening to me.  What helped then, without having any medication on hand, was to stretch those muscles out.  I sounds counterintuitive and painful.  It was slightly but after doing it, it did provide me with relief and I was able to sleep that night with no problem. 


If you have someone who can help with makes it easier to stretch.  Also someone who can massage that muscle...moving in motions away from the heart...can also help. 


Seems a lot of folk get Baclofen to help with this issue.  I have bottle of it in my cupboard but I have only used a half a pill so far.  Thing is...all these drugs have side effects that you have to be aware of before using.  I like to try anything easy and natural at first and then if those remedies don't work then I think about using the prescription drugs.


I hope you find something that works for you.  And please come back to let us know what your neurologist says after all your tests.   



Jamie C, Community Member
8/ 2/09 10:24pm

Thank you very much for your helpful information, I am 39 and recenlty  diagnosed and just got through my denial phase after losing my 4 year relationship. I am in the acceptance phase for sure right now and finally trying to move forward wth this. Getting a good night sleep is now in order.



Sharon Cline, Community Member
11/ 2/08 5:20pm

Hi Jenn.

I just joined today.When we were younger those spasms were called charlie-horses and we would rub our legs,jump up and down.We still til this day eat a banana for potassium and to prevent the leg cramps.The spasms I have today are not like severe cramps,they are like my veins are being pulled out thru my feet.I do still get cramps in my legs,but not like this.I was diagnosed with spasicity of the legs.When I get them at night,I crawl to the bathroom,put the handle of a hair brush in my mouth to bite down on,and rub my legs until I fall asleep.I hoped this helped a little.  Let Your Light Shine---Sharon

Sharon Cline, Community Member
11/ 2/08 5:24pm

It's me again.I forgot to mention that Quinine took that pain away quickly and most of the time prevented the spasms,but they took it off the market.I don't have the reason why,but I really wish they would bring it back.

Merely Me, Health Guide
12/11/08 5:53pm

Hello Jenn


I was just looking at some of the older questions and I saw that you had asked this question way back in October.  I wanted to follow up with you to see how you are doing presently.


Have you gotten any of your results yet?  Did they officially diagnose you with MS? are the spasms?  It seems most people do well with the Baclofen.  I am wondering if they gave you anything else to help with this symptom.


I hope you are doing well.  Don't be a stranger.  Come back and tell us how things are going if you get a chance.

Vicki, Community Member
11/17/09 11:02pm

Yes, unfortunately this is spaticity, I have endured this disease ms for the past 26 years and 5 years ago needed a perscription drug to help alleviate this particular

symptom, previous, I was using an herbal alternative of valerian root, which I still use to supplement the script.  Hope either or both help you, exercise also helps.  Keep moving, don't give up

DebS, Community Member
1/13/10 8:23am

How are you feeling now?  Any other symptoms?  You may want to be tested for Lyme.  I had Lyme for 24 years before a Lyme-literate doctor diagnosed me.  I've now had Lyme for over 30  years.  I'm much better, but when I get recurring symptoms, I have to go back on medication.  Anyway, the symptoms I have right now are the exact ones you're describing.  And, an MRI years ago revealed white spots all over my brain, which was Lyme.  MS is one illness that causes that as well.  But, you may want to consider seeing a Lyme-literate doctor.  Please note that very few doctors know how to test for Lyme and then properly treat it.

Peggy, Community Member
5/12/10 9:28am

where are there any lyme litterate drs! my doctors run the the standard lyme tests which come back ok but I was bitten by a tick 10 years ago had a rash and became ill really suddenly with flu like symptoms ater dr said probably strep throat. but anyway I need a good dr and I live in Nc. They say I have MS due to nan mri with lessions on my brain Im not fully convinced any help please let mo know, Peggy

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By JennW, Community Member— Last Modified: 06/18/12, First Published: 10/05/08