MS spasticity

MS spasticity is a common problem

Spasticity is a common symptom of multiple sclerosis (MS), affecting between 40 and 80 percent of those with the condition at some time. It can range from a very mild tightness to causing extremely painful muscle spasms that cause the extremities to love uncontrollably. It can range from a small toe twitching to a big spasm of a leg.

It causes stiffness and rigidity and tightness around joints, as well as lower back pain sometimes. It can occur anywhere in the body, but it is much more commonly experienced in the legs.

Spasms can often occur at night and interfere with sleep – jerking can wake you or your partner and make getting a good night’s sleep tricky.


Identifying your triggers makes it easier to manage and deal with your symptoms. Common ones include an increase in body temperature – whether that’s through exercise, your environment changing, or a fever, an infection, for example a UTI, overly tight clothing, posture issues, stress or even a full bladder.


Physiotherapy can help and your doctor or MS nurse can refer you to a specialist. You will learn how to stretch muscles, increase movement in joints and strengthen your body to help with symptoms.

While movement is vital for helping to manage spasticity, it isn’t always enough and there are various drugs available your doctor may try, including Baclofen and Tizanidine which are muscle relaxants, Gabapentin, an anticonvulsant that calms overactive nervous system messages, Dantrolene sodium, which reduces the muscles’ ability to contract, and Diazepam and clonazepam which are muscle relaxants but can only be used short-term because they can be addictive.

Sativex, which is a cannabis-based drug, was approved for use on the NHS in 2019, but remains difficult to come by. You have to have ‘moderate’ to ‘severe’ spasticity and other treatments have failed to help.

For more information, download MS-UK’s Spasms and Spasticity Choices booklet from