My wife, Caryn, was the first to notice one of the things that seems to be part of my new normal as I recover from my last MS “thing”: She asked me a couple of times about my left hand as I was doing (or trying to do) something that did not involve that appendage.
While I was walking with my crutch, reading your comments, or simply having a chat with our dogs, Caryn noticed my left hand was curling at the wrist and fingers. I straightened it out as much as I could, but within a few minutes it was back in the same position.
Caryn said it was as if I was “throwing gang signs” as I walked. I love my SoCal girl from the barrio.
I’d forgotten to mention it to my multiple sclerosis team when we were going over things before the neurological exam we all know so well. My hand and fingers on the left side (and leg and foot, for that matter) are markedly weaker than they were just over a year ago when I had my last visit.
Caryn brought it to my doc’s attention as we were making our staggered exit.
He said he’d observed it while we were talking, and that it’s spasticity.
Because what I was experiencing did not meet my assumed definition of spasticity, I thought it might be a good topic for our running MS Symptom Thesaurus.
A Different Kind of MS Spasticity
While most definitions of MS spasticity have to do with muscle stiffness and contraction, what I was experiencing was indeed a tightening of the muscles in my forearm, which causes the hand and fingers to turn in. But this was not the stiff, rigid, and painful type of spasticity that I’ve heard our MS brothers and sisters talk about.
The words I’d use to describe this symptom would be:
- A disabled look to my arm and hand
- A sense of muscle atrophy
- Restful, or “dumb” limb
- A change to my limb’s natural resting position
- A staggered starting line, like my arm and hand have to start from a place farther back from where they used to when I want to move them — yet another multiple sclerosis thing that looks different than it feels (or doesn’t feel)
I know that this type of spasticity is nothing like what many experience. For that reason, I ask all of you to explain your version of this symptom. It doesn’t always manifest in the same stiff or painful way for everyone, so the more descriptors we can put into the comments section of this blog, the more powerful resource it will be for those trying to describe what they’re going through.
So to kick off August, let’s share the ways you might explain MS spasticity.
Wishing you and your family the best of health.