The spinal cord’s primary function is to communicate with the brain to control the body. However, when those communication signals are lost, certain parts of the body can no longer be voluntarily controlled. As a result of paralysis, spasticity, or shaking, of the muscles occurs.
My injury level is C5-C6, which causes paralysis from the chest down. The muscles in my lower trunk and legs often have a mind of their own, which can cause my legs to jump off the footrest of my wheelchair.
The spasms vary in duration and severity. Sometimes they last for a few seconds while others happen for a couple minutes. My spasms occur mostly when I’m laying down. Since I sit in my wheelchair all day, it takes several minutes for the muscles to relax. The spams aren’t painful, but they can be annoying and uncomfortable.
Although spasticity can be frustrating, there are some benefits. I’ve noticed that when I have a lot of spasms, it usually is an indication of two problems: 1) a pressure sore on the lower half of my body or; 2) a urinary tract infection. Due to the lack of sensation below my injury level, I can’t tell when something is wrong. Therefore, the spasms can serve as an indicator that something serious is happening.
Medication is available to control the spasticity, but I only take medicine if the spasms interfere with daily activities. For those with chronic spasticity, a medicine pump can be placed under the skin to give frequent doses.
To learn more about spasticity in spinal cord injury, visit the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation website.