Hypertonia is a condition in which the legs and arms get stiff and become difficult to move due to too much off muscle tone. Signals that travel from the brain to the nerves and tell the muscle to contract regulates the muscle tone. Damage to the regions of the brain or spinal cord that control these signals leads hypertonia. The damage could occur due blow to the head, stroke, brain tumors, toxins that affect the brain, neurodegenerative processes such as in multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's disease, or neurodevelopmental abnormalities such as in cerebral palsy.
Hypertonia limits the movement of joints. When it affects the legs, it makes walking difficult and. In severe cases it can also cause a frozen joint. Sparity is a particular type of hypertonia in which the muscles' spasms are increased by movement causing exaggerated reflex responses.
Rigidity is another type of hypertonia in which the muscles have the same amount of stiffness independent of the degree of movement. It usually occurs in diseases such as Parkinson's disease that involve the basal ganglia.
Doctor prescribes muscle relaxing drugs such as baclofen, diazepam, and dantrolene to reduce spasticity. Botulinum toxin is often used to relieve hypertonia in a specific area of the body because its effects are local, not body-wide. People with hypertonia are adviced to preserve as much movement as possibly by exercising within their limits and using physical therapy to treat the rigidity.
The prognosis depends upon the causes and severity of the hypertonia. There are cases such as cerebral palsy, where the hypertonia may not change over the course of a lifetime. While in other cases, it may worsen along with the underlying disease. The mild form of the disease has little or no effect on a person's health. But moderate hypertonia may cause falls or joint contractures and affecting person’s health and safety. Severe hypertonia can cause immobility; potential consequences include increased bone fragility and fracture, infection, bed sores, and pneumonia.
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