From Jenny Sue Got Married, originally posted on July 27, 2011.
Al continues to have increased tone and spasticity in his muscles,
specifically in his left arm. The correct term would be "hypertonia":
the increased stiffness of muscles, and the resulting inability to
stretch. Spasticity is related to tone, and what it means is that
trying to stretch muscles in a state of hypertonia often results in the
muscles rebelling and contracting excessively. Sometimes, if a muscle
is stretched too fast, it can lead to clonus, which is when the arm or
leg shakes uncontrollably.
Here is the frustrating
part: we usually loosen up stiff muscles by stretching them. For a
stroke survivor, though, the stiffness is not only dependent on the
muscle itself. It is actually compounded by the damage to the brain.
So the brain is not communicating with the muscles so that they behave
correctly. I can bend and flex Al's arm repeatedly, and instead of
loosening up, it tightens more and more as I go on. It's very
frustrating because I want his muscles to behave like muscles should.
would be a remedy for the stiffness in his muscles, but it would also
likely weaken his muscles. It seems that every medication available for
stroke damage offers the same 2-edged sword - yes, it will help control
the tone and spasticity, but it will most likely cause muscle weakness
at the same time. SO frustrating, since we obviously want Al's strength
to increase, without having to overcome the muscle stiffness.
not at the point that he will be taking botox injections, but herein
lies the difficulty of stroke rehabilitation. Not only do we have to
hope and pray that Al's brain can reconnect with the left side of his
body, but he has to work extra hard against the rebellion of his