Spasticity (stiffness)

Photo of a young girl stretching

Spasticity is a common symptom in MS. It is a tightness or stiffness of the muscles, which typically occurs in the legs (calf or thigh), groin, and buttocks. Mild spasticity may not be painful and can sometimes offer extra support when standing; however, more severe spasticity may cause significant discomfort if not treated.

Spasticity in MS is a result of demyelination along the nerves of the brain and spinal cord that control movement. Treatments include exercise and stretching, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies, aquatic therapy, braces and other devices, as well as medications.

In addition to the physical effects of spasticity, this symptom can also affect one’s quality of life and emotional health. Significant spasticity can have an effect on relationships, employment, and other activities, and can often be accompanied by anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Seeking help through one’s medical team and taking advantage of the different treatments available can help to minimize the effects of spasticity in MS.

Causes and Effects

Treatment Strategies

Impact on Quality of Life


Updated in December 2023 by Dr. Barry Hendin, MSAA Chief Medical Officer
Original content reviewed by Randall T. Schapiro, MD

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