About Stroke

As the number one cause of disability in adults, stroke affects a diverse range of people. If you are one of them, you know stroke may cause severe spasticity. You should also know it may be possible to manage your symptoms and live more comfortably – through therapies offered here at PBNeuroRehab’s Spasticity Clinic.


A stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel or artery. It also can occur when a blood vessel breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain. A stroke kills brain cells in the immediate area.

When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain are lost. These abilities may include speech, movement, and memory. The way a stroke affects you depends on where the stroke occurs in the brain and how much of the brain is damaged.1


An ischemic stroke is the most common kind of stroke. It’s caused by a blood clot that blocks or plugs a blood vessel in the brain. A hemorrhagic stroke is caused by a blood vessel that breaks and bleeds into the brain. “Mini-strokes,” or transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), happen when the blood supply to the brain is briefly interrupted.2

Risk Factors

A stroke can happen to anyone. However, you can take steps to prevent stroke. The most important treatable conditions linked to stroke are:3

  • High blood pressure
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • TIA


Symptoms of stroke come on suddenly, and may include:3

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg (especially on one side of the body)
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause


The following screening tools are most often used to determine stroke risk, but they also can be used to diagnose stroke:4

  • Physical examination
  • Blood tests
  • Imaging tests such as a computerized tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), carotid ultrasound, cerebral angiogram, or echocardiogram

About Spasticity due to Stroke

If you’ve suffered a stroke, you may begin to experience spasticity.

Spasticity is caused by damage or injury to the part of the central nervous system (the brain or spinal cord) that controls voluntary movement. This damage disrupts important signals between the nervous system and muscles, creating an imbalance that increases muscle activity or spasms.

Spasticity can make movement, posture, and balance difficult. It may affect your ability to move one or more of your limbs, or to move one side of your body. Sometimes spasticity is so severe that it gets in the way of daily activities, sleep patterns, and care giving. In certain situations, this loss of control can be dangerous for the individual.

Learn about therapies for the treatment of spasticity due to stroke.


  1. What Is Stroke? National Stroke Association. www.stroke.org.
  2. Stroke. Medline Plus. www.nlm.nih.gov.
  3. Stroke Risk Factors and Symptoms. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. www.ninds.nih.gov.
  4. Stroke: Tests and Diagnosis. Mayo Clinic. www.mayoclinic.com.

Treatment Options for Severe Spasticity

People with spasticity can treat their condition in many ways: rehabilitation, medication, injection therapy, even surgery. There is also Medtronic ITB TherapySM (Intrathecal Baclofen Therapy), also called the baclofen pump, which may be helpful for reducing your severe spasticity.

There is currently no cure for severe spasticity. However, there are a number of treatment options available for managing your symptoms. They include:

Rehabilitation Therapy

Rehabilitation therapy usually takes place in a clinic, a hospital, or at home. It can include any combination of physical, occupational, or speech therapy.

Oral Medication

Oral medications may help some people treat the symptoms of spasticity.


Neurodestructive surgical procedures include selective dorsal rhizotomy, in which the dorsal (sensory) nerve roots are severed.

Injection Therapy

Injection therapy is usually intended for specific muscle groups (for example, one hand, one foot, one shoulder).

Orthopedic Surgery

Orthopedic surgeries include soft tissue procedures like tendon transfers and osteotomies (cutting a bone to change its alignment).

ITB Therapy (Baclofen Pump)

ITB Therapy, also called the baclofen pump, is an adjustable, reversible treatment for severe spasticity. A surgically placed pump and catheter deliver liquid baclofen (Lioresal® Intrathecal) directly to the fluid around the spinal cord, where it’s needed most.

PBNeuroRehab’s Spasticity Clinic offers the above treatments for severe spasticity.