Paralysis and spasticity - Q: Even though I have got some movement back, I can't use my arm because it feels so stiff. The physio says this is due to 'spasticity'. What is it and what treatment can I have for it? A: Spasticity is the medical term for muscles that are abnormally stiff. Initially after a stroke your muscles will be floppy (flaccid) as well as weak. For example, if your arm or leg is lifted and put through a range of movements, there will seem to be very little resistance. Within a few days after the stroke, even if no strength has returned, the muscles usually start to stiffen. When someone tries to move the arm or leg for you, it will be much more difficult. Several factors can make the stiffness worse: It is very important that the stiffness of your muscles is not allowed to become too severe, because if the muscles are very stiff it will become very difficult for you to move them once your strength starts returning. The treatment lies in recognising that there is a problem and then doing everything possible to prevent it. Within a few minutes of starting a treatment session, a skilled physiotherapist can reduce stiffness in muscles by getting your posture right and manipulating your limbs. It is important that the physiotherapist tells the nurses about how you should be moved and positioned correctly. If the stiffness is not treated early, the joints and muscles can get so stiff that it becomes impossible for anyone to move the joint - a contracture. Once this has happened, it is quite difficult to get the joint functioning again.