Halloween is past, over, done for this year… and I have Multiple Sclerosis, but that doesn’t make me a MonSter, does it?
Not really, but lately, I am Frankenstein!! The 1931 Boris Karloff version.
Why am I walking with the stiff lurch of the classic film creature you ask? Spasticity.
"Spasticity is a condition in which certain muscles are continuously contracted. This contraction causes stiffness or tightness of the muscles and may interfere with movement, speech, and manner of walking. Spasticity is usually caused by damage to the portion of the brain or spinal cord that controls voluntary movement."
Over two years ago, I mentioned minor increased stiffness in my legs to my neurologist. At the time he recommended stretching, increased potassium intake, and exercise. I tried those things and they did help.
This past spring, I experienced a relapse during which my primary symptoms were caused by spasticity. My hamstrings and calves were so tight that my thighs were ineffectual. Getting up from chairs or the couch was difficult and excruciating. I often had to resort to pulling on tables to get in an upright position.
During the week of IVSM (to treat the exacerbation), I regained the ability to rise from a seated position using only the strength of my legs. Whooohoooo!! Such exciting stuff that I had to show-off for the infusion nurse, "Look, see what I can do today."
At the next appointment following the Solumedrol, my neurologist prescribed Baclofen to combat the spasticity. It took just days, while slowly increasing the dose, to discover it’s miraculous power to loosen up the bound muscles. I could move again.
"Symptoms [of spasticity] may include hypertonicity (increased muscle tone), clonus (a series of rapid muscle contractions), exaggerated deep tendon reflexes, muscle spasms, scissoring (involuntary crossing of the legs), and fixed joints. The degree of spasticity varies from mild muscle stiffness to severe, painful, and uncontrollable muscle spasms. Spasticity can interfere with rehabilitation in patients with certain disorders, and often interferes with daily activities."
This past Monday, I had a follow-up visit with the neurologist’s assistant. We discussed any and all MS symptoms which are going on right now. One of those remains to be spasticity. Admittedly, I’ve been very conservative with Baclofen doses and there’s definitely room to increase. But now I’ve got a different problem.
Abnormality of Gait - awkward, uncoordinated walking - which in my case looks like a Boris Karloff impersonation.
No offense to Mr. Karloff, but this little MonSter will be seeking the special torture and training which only a physical therapist can provide. As I learn to stretch properly and propel my legs forward without swinging my hips around, I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes. Perhaps I will become as graceful as Ginger Rogers.
Source of spasticity definition: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Lisa Emrich is a patient advocate, accomplished speaker, author of the award-winning blog Brass and Ivory: Life with MS and RA, and founder of the Carnival of MS Bloggers. Lisa uses her experience to educate patients, raise disease awareness, encourage self-advocacy, and support patient-centered research. Lisa frequently works with non-profit organizations and has brought the patient voice to health care conferences and meetings worldwide. Follow Lisa on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.