Spasticity: The misunderstood part of the upper motor neuron syndrome

Cindy B. Ivanhoe, Timothy A. Reistetter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


Spasticity is a sensorimotor phenomenon related to the integration of the nervous system motor responses to sensory input. Although most commonly considered a velocity-dependent increase to tonic stretch, it is related to hypersensitivity of the reflex arc and changes that occur within the central nervous system, most notably, the spinal cord. Injury to the central nervous system results in loss of descending inhibition, allowing for the clinical manifestation of abnormal impulses. Muscle activity becomes overactive. This is mediated at several areas of the stretch-reflex pathway. Although spasticity is part of the upper motor neuron syndrome, it is frequently tied to the other presentations of the said syndrome. Contracture, hypertonia, weakness, and movement disorders can all coexist as a result of the upper motor neuron syndrome. Although basic science descriptions of spasticity are being elucidated, clinically, confusion exists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S3-S9
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Issue number10 SUPPL.
StatePublished - Oct 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Pathophysiology
  • Spasticity
  • Upper Motor Neuron

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


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