Muscle spasticity is one of the most challenging symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Patients with MS often experience a tightening or stiffening of the lower body muscles in the legs, groin, buttocks, and back.
Muscle spasticity can affect the ability to stand, walk, and balance and is one of the biggest detriments to a patient’s quality of life. Muscle spasticity can worsen during quick stretches or movements. However, when done correctly, gentle stretches can help patients manage spasticity effectively.
While lying on your back, bend your knees at a 45-degree angle, draw them together, and gently let both knees lower to one side, holding for 30 seconds. Then pull the knees back to the center and slowly lower them to the other side.
In this hip stretch, your goal is to decrease tightness, not get your knees to the floor, so only lower them as far as it feels okay. Keep your arms out to the side in a “T,” palms down. Move slowly.
Hip Flexor Stretches
Lying on your back, rest on the lower half of your bed with your knees and lower legs hanging off the edge. You should feel a stretch in your hip flexors located at the front of your hip. Aim to build up to a 30-second, then 60-second hold.
Placing a rolled-up towel on the floor, step on the towel with the ball of your foot, keeping your weight on the back of the foot. Then, step the opposite foot slightly forward, still maintaining the weight on the back of the foot, stretching the calf.
When seated, place a rubber ball on the floor and roll your foot over the ball, paying particular attention to places on your foot that lack feeling or feel disengaged.
While seated, hold a rolled towel at both ends, wrapping the towel under one foot. Lift the foot and towel with both hands and try to keep the leg extended for up to 30 seconds.
Tips for Exercising with Muscle Spasticity
Muscle spasticity affects everyone differently. If you experience muscle spasticity when extending your legs, avoid stretches that straighten the knee and hip to that point. Also, patients who incorporate stretches regularly see the most benefits and better movement.
If you take an anti-spasticity drug, exercise about an hour after taking your medication, and have your dosage checked regularly as spasticity changes.
If your spasticity worsens, or you’re not finding relief from the suggested exercises, schedule time with a physical therapist to learn about the best exercises for your needs.