A spinal cord injury from a car accident can affect your body in ways that you do not expect. For example, according to the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center, 65% to 78% of people with spinal cord injuries experience muscle spasticity as a result.
Spasticity consists of muscle tightness and involuntary movement of a limb. It can cause your reflexes to become hyperactive, meaning that they overreact to a stimulus, such as a light touch, by causing the muscles to go into spasm.
What is the relationship between a spinal cord injury and muscle spasticity?
A spinal cord injury disrupts the normal flow of nerve signals from your body to your brain. If your spinal cord is like a highway, the damage from your injury is like a road closure. Cars on a closed road may have no choice but to turn around the way they came, which is what the nerve signals from the motor nerve cells in the body do. The nerve signals return to the motor cells and stimulate them, which causes a reflex muscle reaction.
Not all spinal cord injuries cause muscle spasticity. If your injury was to your neck, you may be at greater risk of spasticity than you would be if the injury occurred at the level of your low back or chest.
What can you do about spasticity?
Pay attention to when spasticity occurs. It may be that certain stimuli are triggering it. If you can determine the pattern, you may be able to avoid stimuli that trigger your spasticity.
If avoiding triggers does not work, it may be possible to treat your spasticity with medications, physical therapy or surgery.