Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sunday Stroke Survival: Spasticity Revisited

Well, I went to the orthopedist again for a follow-up on my shoulder. The good news is that he is no longer strongly suggesting surgery to fix my shoulder. The bad news, dropping the other shoe, is that he said, "It's as good as it's gonna get post stroke and with the spasticity."

I wanted to scream back at him that I needed my right shoulder almost fully functional like it was prior to this event. But I didn't. I bit my tongue because he was partially right.

The spasticity is a major player in my life right now. It mimics a frozen shoulder and arm on bad days. But at least now I can say "on bad days" instead of constantly. That a huge improvement. Unfortunately, my office visit was a couple of days past a tumble for me. I can always count on being more spastic after a fall. At least for a few days. Then my body will recover to it's dry needling success stance of minor spasticity.

What do I classify as a minor spasticity stance? My arm will straighten at the elbow and my shoulder will be able to raise my arm above my head with little or no resistance. I'll have good strength to hold things in position under my arm or with my elbow bent. For me, it's a godsend. For two years I spent with my arm bent at greater than 90 degrees up into my chest with strong spastic muscles. It was only marginally relieved by muscle relaxers and Botox therapies. All the Botox really did was relax the bicep muscles so they didn't painfully cramp and let me straighten my elbow to 45 degrees. But still that was an improvement over non Botox.

What does spasticity in full force look like? For me, the pic is pretty close. I'll no longer put my picture in here because it actually causes pain and discomfort to some readers. It's really amazing the contortion that spastic muscles can position a limb in. Here lately, it's mainly my wrist and finger that go wonky with contortions rather than my whole arm. This is a huge blessing!  My fingers will partially straighten and twist in their sockets. Yes, this is painful, but thankfully it hasn't lasted for more than a hour at a time. But I also look at this as an improvement over a tight fist closure I used to have. Even my fingernails bitten down to the quick would draw blood from my palms. Yeah, it was that bad.

Spasticity is the bane of my recovery and my post stroke life. I'd gladly trade them for the clonus tremors that I first had after my stroke any day. Can you believe I'm actually happy to see my arm and leg in tremors? Yep, it's true because it shows the almost absence of spastic muscles. Of course, being an overachiever like I am, I can't just have one or the other, but both. But that's okay. I'm a tough, old bird that even pressure cooking for hours could make me tender. I can take it. But I still look forward to the day when I feel like I've achieved enough to just be normal with just clonus and the spasticity gone. Do I believe this can happen? I'd bet my last plug nickel on it. Hmm, (rattling around in my change collection) gotta make me some more. In the mean time...
Nothing is impossible.


  1. Hi Jo - life for you is definitely not easy ... all I can say is take care, have plenty of good days with fewer 'bad' ones ... and enjoy what you can ... as you say ... nothing is impossible ... with thoughts - Hilary

  2. This is an inspiring story that flies in the face of old myths about recovery. It is also helpful to explain how painful and scary spasticity can be because this information does not make it into textbooks.

  3. Hilary, No, life in general is not easy for anyone.
    Rebecca, A lot of stuff isn't explained in textbook.

  4. To quote a great movie--Never give up. Never surrender. ;-)


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