Can spasticity affect libido?

Yes, Patients with increased spasticity often report a decreasing libido. In particular painful muscle stiffness can reduce sexual desire.

Whether there is a difference between right and left hemispheric lesions has not yet been clarified. Studies in regard to laterality are currently not consistent. 4

4 Park J-H. et al. Stroke and sexual dysfunction – A narrative review. Journ. J Neurol Sci 2015; 350:8. Epub: 2015/02/07.

Is it normal to experience increased spasticity during sexual intercourse?

Yes, many patients develop increased spasticity during sexual intercourse and especially during orgasm.³ The human body experiences an exceptional hormonal situation in the sense of a stress reaction, and the jerking movements increase the internal tension of the skeletal muscles. Exaggerated expectations and pressure to “perform” come on top. All these parameters promote increased spasticity.

However, even if the sexual act has once been affected by increased spasticity, it does not necessarily have to happen again next time. Increased spasticity during sexual intercourse can often be overcome or at least reduced by small adjustments. These can include various sensual stimuli such as dimmed light, scented candles, relaxing music, as well as changes of location and position (bathtub, swing systems) or massages. Simple aids such as support pillows, rolled up towels or the partner’s hands can help to relieve muscular tension in parts of the body.

3 Park J-H. et al. Stroke and sexual dysfunction – A narrative review. Journ. J Neurol Sci 2015; 350:7-13. Epub: 2015/02/07.

What’s the best way to explain my condition to family members so they understand?

Muscle tone is a state of tension that is maintained continuously – minimally even when relaxed – and which increases in resistance to passive stretch. It helps to maintain posture and decreases during sleep. The stretch reflex is a muscle contraction in response to stretching within the muscle. This reflex, by definition extremely fast exists to allow the muscle to adapt to any kind of muscular tone, to avoid over-stretching , e.g. when need to adapt to a brutal change of the ground.

In spasticity, the muscle tone is abnormally increased (muscle hypertonia), and reflexes such as the stretch reflex may persist for too long and may be too strong (hyperactive reflexes). These phenomena cause an increased resistance to passive movement (e.g., if someone else tries to move the extremities of the person affected) characterized in the following ways:

  1. it increases with increasing speed of stretch and varies with the direction of joint movement and/or
  2. it increases above a patient-specific threshold speed or joint angle

The slower the speed and the smaller the angle when spasticity appears, the more severe it is.