Clonus vs. Spasticity – 7/18

At the current time I have both clonus and spasticity in my legs.  To simplify clonus is the same as shaking.  I’ve had legs that shake and move involuntarily for 20 some years.  If my feet are on the deck of my scooter or for that matter anywhere my legs can start moving in an up and down motion all by themselves.   I think my legs would shake (clonus) all day long if I let them.  At times it can be very annoying.

My leg clonus often happens at the wrong times.  One example would be when I’m trying to get on my toilet.  I go into the bathroom, hoist myself up with my arms (I can only hold myself up for 5 seconds) as my wife pulls down my shorts and undies.  It’s just about then one of my legs starts to shake.  When that happens I have to sit back down on my scooter and pick my foot up with one of my hands and move it.  I can move the foot forward or back or put my foot in a different direction and the shaking stops.

Another example would be when I’m lying in bed.  I usually sleep with my legs slightly bent.  If I want to stretch them out and unbend them I then push them towards the end of my bed.  At that time one of my legs or both will start contracting and it will literally shake the entire bed.

I always called the shaking movements spasticity.  I did some research for this post and learned the shaking should really be called clonus.  I then called my physical therapist and he confirmed the movements as being clonus!

Sometimes when I’m stretching my legs out they will feel like they are locked or frozen at the knee.  They stick straight out and it feels like they will never bend again.  When this happens I try to relax because I know in 20-40 seconds the stiffness and locked feeling will ease up.  I then can bend my knees again.  From my research I found out this should really be called spasticity!

Sometimes the spasticity will happen when I’m transferring to or riding my scooter.  One or both of my legs become spastic, lock at the knee and stick straight out.  I then move my leg so it’s pointing straight ahead and I can keep driving.  It has to look hilarious because I’m riding my scooter with my leg stiff as a board and pointing forward.  If you saw it you’d laugh!


The following info is from Wikipedia.

Clonus (from the Greek word for “violent, confused motion”) is a series of involuntary, rhythmic, muscular contractions and relaxations.  Clonus is a sign of certain neurological conditions.  They are particularly associated with upper motor neuron lesions involving descending motor pathways.

Clonus is most commonly found at the ankle, specifically with a dorsiflexion/plantarflexion movement (up and down).  Some case studies have also reported clonus in the finger, toe, and laterally in the ankle (as opposed to the typical up and down motion).

In many cases, it’s accompanied by spasticity (another form of hyperexcitability).  Unlike small spontaneous twitches known as fasciculations (usually caused by lower motor neuron pathology) clonus causes large motions that are usually initiated by a reflex.  Clonus may last a few seconds to several minutes depending on the patient’s condition.

Spasticity (from the Greek word spasmos), meaning ‘drawing, pulling’) is a feature of altered skeletal muscle performance.  It is with a combination of paralysis, increased tendon reflex activity and hypertonia. It is also colloquially referred to as an unusual “tightness”, stiffness, or “pull” of muscles.

Clinically, spasticity results from the loss of inhibition of motor neurons.  This causes  excessive velocity-dependent muscle contraction.  This ultimately leads to hyperreflexia, an exaggerated deep tendon reflex.  Spasticity is often treated with the drug baclofen, which acts as an agonist at GABA receptors, which are inhibitory.

** Personally, I take 2 pills per night called Tizanidine.  The Tizanidine is supposed to slow or stop the clonus and spasticity.  I’ve been taking the pills for 10 years and my legs are still shaking.  I keep taking them though because without them I might shake worse.  The Tizanidine also knocks me out and I sleep a solid 3 hours.  Doesn’t matter what I do but I sleep 3 hours!





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