Barb e-mailed me a question about her muscles and I said it’s synergistic movement, I was wrong.  She said that sometimes opposing muscles will contract, like when she fires her triceps her biceps will also contract.  That’s not synergy.  Synergistic movement is when a few muscles contract together to perform the same action, such as flexion.  My synergistic movement was a flexion synergy.  So all of my muscles flexed.  That means that my elbow would bend, my wrist would curl, my shoulder would come up, etc.  The opposite of flexion is extension.  So extension is when the elbow straightens, the wrist straightens and pulls back a little, the fingers straighten.  I don’t know why opposing muscle groups would fire.  I hate not being able to answer questions!!  😦  She also said that sometimes the muscles are unrelated.  There’s one exercise that she does where she’s using her quads and her triceps go off and straighten the arm.  That one sounds more like a synergy because both the quads and triceps are extensors but I don’t know about the first example.

Obviously this is an area where we need to know A LOT more.  Not as if there isn’t enough research to do about recovering from a stroke.  :/  Right after my stroke when I was in the hospital and 2 PTs had to hold me up to walk the entire right side of my body would contract when walking.  My elbow would bend, my wrist would curl.  This freaked me the hell out even though I had learned about synergistic movement – nothing like the experience.  Anyway, so I asked my PT why that was happening and her response to me was “maybe because you’re putting so much effort into it.”   I wonder how long she had been working in neurological rehab.

Categories: Brain stuff, Rehab, Stroke stuff

Tags: , , , , ,

16 replies

  1. I’ve found I have spasticity in both my biceps and triceps. The biceps overpower everything else. This is where we need an objective way to measure spasticity instead of the stupid, lets jerk your arm downward and notice resistance and call that spasticity.

  2. Could it be some sort of overflow phenomenon related to effort? When I grip my left hand really hard, I find that I also contract the muscles in my left lower back. It feels very different from synergistic movement. If you watch a group of young ballet students in class, some of them are trying so hard to turn their feet out properly that they unintentionally stick their tongues out.

  3. I dunno. It takes every muscle on both sides of my body to do anything with my stroked side. The spasticity in my causes my shoulder to freeze into position, my wrist to pronate, my elbow to draw in and upwards, and my fingers to extend into a witch’s claw. It will stay locked in this position for hours, or weeks. My ankle bends 90 degrees inward. Spasticity is so much fun. Be glad when the 12th gets here for my next round of botox.

  4. I can relate. Over the last 12 months or so, my spasticity has spread all over my affected left side, and now seems like it is in every muscle. It functions as a reactive force trying to slow down any movement on that side, or even stop movement if it could. But so far it isn’t quite that strong. When I bring my hand to my chin for example, the triceps will to try to keep my arm from bending. But not just passively try to stop it by being stiff or staying contracted, but actively contracting trying to stop the movement. That’s what it feels like, anyway. When I straighten my arm, to point for instance, the biceps will try to keep it bent. When I’m seated and raise my foot to straighten my leg, the hamstring will try to keep it bent, and if I have my leg extended out in front of me and want to bring my foot close to the chair, the quads will try to try to keep my leg extended. It’s as if the spasticity desires inertia and thinks movement is bad, so fights to maintain the status quo.

  5. What a great thread.

    Dean’s comment about the definition of spasticity rings true for me, too.

    I also have a hard time figuring out the line between spasticity and synergies, sometimes. For instance, sometimes I carry my travel mug in the house for an exercise for my arm/shoulder, but where I feel my body working the most is in my hamstrings. Is it spasticity or synergies that makes me aware of the tightness my leg, or is it something else? In any case, I’ve found that working on my arm/shoulder pays off for my whole right side. Barb, I wonder if you (or hubby) strapped weight on your affected arm/wrist, would it make a difference with your gait?

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