What is spasticity?

Spasticity in a nutshell

Spasticity is a word used to describe the way your body may behave following brain or spinal cord damage.

It affects the system that controls voluntary movement, muscle tone and supports the body against gravity – called the upper motor neuron system (UMN).



are affected by spasticity worldwide1


of stroke survivors

may develop spasticity within 3 months2


of people

with multiple sclerosis have some form of spasticity4

65%- 74%

of people

after spinal cord injury have some form of spasticity8

How many people are affected by spasticity?

Overall, it is estimated that spasticity affects over 12 million people throughout the world. 1

A 2019 study found that 45% of stroke survivors could expect to develop spasticity three months after a stroke with 35% experiencing spasticity one year after a stroke.2

Combined information from 9 studies in people who had experienced a stroke showed that spasticity was most likely to develop within the first month, with about one quarter of survivors developing spasticity at some time after the stroke. Specifically, after a stroke, 32% of survivors had spasticity within one month, 22% within one to three months, 26% within three to six months and 24% over six months after.3

Around 86% of people with multiple sclerosis have some form of spasticity, negatively impacting their quality of life.4

In addition, 19% of patients with a new diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, and 10% of those with an ongoing history of multiple sclerosis need treatment for spasticity.5

of people with cerebral palsy have spasticity

Spasticity is found in 70% of people (aged 2 to 20 years) with cerebral palsy, many of whom are nonambulatory.

Traumatic brain injury is extremely variable with regard to injury mechanisms and patterns, and up to 85% of those affected develop spasticity.7

After spinal cord injury, 65% to 74% of patients are reported to have spasticity, and 35% to 45% of patients have spasticity that is either troublesome or problematic.8

Spasticity is more common if the spinal cord injury occurs at the cervical (in 87% of injuries) or thoracic (85% of injuries) level than if at the lumbar (57% of injuries).9

Senior caucasian patient with crutches taking a walk with his wife and grandson in a park

Read more about what causes spasticity and how to recognize it

For more information about spasticity, check out our other articles.


1Johns Hopkins Medicine. Spasticity. Accessed: March 2024. Available at: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/spasticity

2Schinwelski MJ, Sitek EJ, W?? P, S?awek JW. Prevalence and predictors of post-stroke spasticity and its impact on daily living and quality of life. Neurol Neurochir Pol. 2019;53(6):449-57.

3Zeng H, Chen J, Guo Y, Tan S. Prevalence and Risk Factors for Spasticity After Stroke: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Front Neurol. 2021 Jan 20;11:616097.

4Milinis K, Tennant A, Young CA; TONiC study group. Spasticity in multiple sclerosis: Associations with impairments and overall quality of life. Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2016 Jan;5:34-9.

5Smith KA, Piehl F, Olsson T, Alfredsson L, Hillert J, Kockum I, Stridh P, Montgomery S. Spasticity treatment patterns among people with multiple sclerosis: a Swedish cohort study. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2022 Dec 20:jnnp-2022-329886.

6Pulgar S, Bains S, Gooch J, Chambers H, Noritz GH, Wright E, Sawhney TG, Pyenson B, Ferro C. Prevalence, Patterns, and Cost of Care for Children with Cerebral Palsy Enrolled in Medicaid Managed Care. J Manag Care Spec Pharm. 2019 Jul;25(7):817-22.

7Enslin JMN, Rohlwink UK, Figaji A. Management of Spasticity After Traumatic Brain Injury in Children. Front Neurol. 2020 Feb 21;11:126.

8Holtz KA, Lipson R, Noonan VK, Kwon BK, Mills PB. Prevalence and Effect of Problematic Spasticity After Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2017 Jun;98(6):1132-8.

9Skoog B, Jakobsson KE. Prevalence of Spasticity and Below-Level Neuropathic Pain Related to Spinal Cord Injury Level and Damage to the Lower Spinal Segments. J Rehabil Med Clin Commun. 2020 Mar 8;3:1000039.

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