What’s the Difference Between Muscle Spasticity and Rigidity?

Mar 10, 2023
What’s the Difference Between Muscle Spasticity and Rigidity?
Muscle spasticity and rigidity can be painful and restrict your movements, but the two issues aren’t quite the same. Find out which one you have based on your symptoms and their cause.

Stiff and sore muscles can tire you out and create inconveniences throughout your day. Muscle spasticity and rigidity are a source of tiredness and sore muscles and require careful rehabilitation to manage. 

The experts at Delaware NeuroRehab in Dover, Delaware, examine your neurological symptoms before coordinating the treatment and rehabilitation you need for smoother and more comfortable movement. 

Muscle spasticity and rigidity may have many similarities, but they’re not the same. Here’s how you can tell which you have:

First, let’s examine the similarities

Muscle spasticity and muscle rigidity are neurological conditions that restrict your movements. Stiff muscles from either condition can make simple tasks more challenging. 

Because the two conditions are so similar, it’s easy to mistake one for the other. Neurological providers have the expertise needed to distinguish the conditions and can ensure your diagnosis is accurate before providing care. 

There are slight yet significant differences in how spastic and rigid muscles behave, and the two conditions also have separate causes. 

The causes

A significant difference between muscle spasticity and rigidity is the cause. Both come from neurological conditions, but the specific conditions that cause them to differ. 

Spasticity is typically due to conditions that arise in the parts of your brain, brain stem, or spinal cord that control muscle movement and stretching. The conditions that lead to spasticity don’t always cause spasticity, but they do when specific areas of your brain are affected. Some of the most common causes of spasticity are:

  • Stroke
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Brain injuries
  • Spinal cord compression

The muscle stiffness associated with spasticity is due to interrupted nervous system signals. 

Muscle rigidity causes your muscles to be in a constant state of contraction, even when you try to relax them. One of the most common causes of rigidity is Parkinson’s disease, but it can also be triggered by:

  • Stress
  • Statin medications
  • Lupus
  • Myofascial pain syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Lyme disease
  • Dehydration

Some rigidity resolves on its own, but if yours lasts longer than a week, you should contact our team for an evaluation. 

Muscle behaviors with spasticity vs. rigidity 

Spasticity and rigidity may appear to be the same, but there are slight differences in how your muscles behave. The implication of the need for differentiating is treatment. What works for Spasticity doesn’t work for Rigidity. 

If you have muscle spasticity, your muscle movements are restricted in one specific direction. That isn’t the case with rigidity, which exhibits stiffness for your muscles’ entire range of motion. 

Additionally, spasticity is more noticeable with fast movements than with slow movements. Rigidity doesn’t vary with the speed of your movements. Spasticity often comes with muscle weakness, whereas rigidity often does not. 

There are always exceptions to the general rules mentioned above. 

Treat your muscle stiffness today

Our expert team at Delaware NeuroRehab is prepared to confirm your diagnosis and rehabilitate/treat your spastic or rigid muscles. Call the office or schedule your appointment online today.