Difference Between Spasticity and Tone

Muscle tone refers to the baseline level of muscle tension necessary for posture and movement, on the other hand Spasticity is a certain type of increased muscle tone characterized by velocity-dependent resistance to movement, often due to upper motor neuron damage.Both of them are influenced by neurological conditions and impact motor function.The assessment of Muscle tone is very critical to several movement disorders including spasticity. Spasticity is manifested clinically as an increase in muscle tone that become more apparent with more stretching

Comparative Table: Spasticity and Tone

Below is the difference between spasticity and tone in a tabular format:

Feature Spasticity Normal Muscle Tone
Definition Velocity-dependent increase in muscle tone Continuous and passive partial contraction of muscles
Cause Upper motor neuron lesions Normal physiological state
Velocity-Dependent Yes No
Reflexes Hyperreflexia, clonus Normal reflex responses
Muscle Resistance Increases with speed of movement Consistent resistance
Pathological Yes No
Common Conditions Multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, stroke Normal functioning

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What is Spasticity?

An abnormally high level of muscle tone or stiffness is known as spasticity, and it can impair speech, mobility, and cause pain and discomfort. It is frequently linked to disorders of the central nervous system (CNS).

Causes of Spasticity

  • Neurological Disorders: Damage to the CNS, including the brain and spinal cord.
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS): Demyelination of nerve fibers affects muscle control.
  • Cerebral Palsy: Damage to the developing brain affects movement and muscle tone.
  • Stroke: Brain injury resulting in impaired movement control.
  • Spinal Cord Injury: Disruption of nerve signals between the brain and muscles.


The Main symptoms of spasticity are as follows,

  • Stiffness and Tightness: Difficulty in moving limbs.
  • Increased Muscle Tone: Muscles remain contracted.
  • Pain and Discomfort: Persistent contraction can cause pain.
  • Clonus: Rapid muscle contractions in response to stretching.
  • Exaggerated Reflexes: Hyperactive reflex responses.

Treatment procedures

  • Physical Therapy: Exercises to improve range of motion and muscle strength.
  • Medications: Medicines that help in Muscle relaxants like baclofen, tizanidine, and diazepam.
  • Botox Injections: Botulinum toxin to reduce muscle stiffness.
  • Surgery : In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to release tendons or cut nerves.


Prognosis also depends on the underlying cause. For example, spasticity due to multiple sclerosis may worsen over time, but treatment can help manage symptoms effectively.



What is Muscle tone?

The continual, passive partial contraction of muscles that supports proper posture is referred to as muscular tone. Unlike Spasticity Muscle tone, is a normal physiological state that guarantees muscles are prepared for action. Pathological circumstances can change tone, however tone does not show the velocity-dependent rise observed in spasticity.

Characteristics of Normal Muscle Tone

  • Consistent resistance to passive movement.
  • Maintains posture and readiness for movement.
  • Not velocity-dependent.

Changes in Muscle Tone

Muscle tone is regulated by a complex interaction between the central nervous system (CNS), peripheral nerves, and muscle fibers. Changes in muscle tone can occur due to:

  • Neurological Disorders: Conditions like Parkinson’s disease can alter muscle tone.
  • Muscle Diseases: Disorders such as muscular dystrophy affect muscle function.
  • Injury or Immobility: Prolonged inactivity can lead to changes in muscle tone.

Assessment and Diagnosis

Assessment of muscle tone involves clinical observation, palpation, and tests like the pendulum test. Comprehensive evaluations consider muscle strength, reflexes, and functional capabilities.

Management of Altered Muscle Tone:

  • Hypertonia: Similar to spasticity management, including medications and physical therapy.
  • Hypotonia: Strengthening exercises, supportive devices, and therapies like hydrotherapy to improve muscle function.

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What is Spasticity?

An abnormally high level of muscle tone or stiffness is known as spasticity, and it can impair speech, mobility, and cause pain and discomfort. It is frequently linked to disorders of the central nervous system (CNS).

What are the common causes of spasticity?

Spasticity is commonly caused by conditions that affect the upper motor neurons, such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and spinal cord injury. These conditions disrupt the balance of signals that control muscle contraction and relaxation.

How does muscle tone differ from spasticity?

Muscle tone refers to the continuous and passive partial contraction of muscles, which is necessary for maintaining posture and readiness for movement. Unlike spasticity, muscle tone is not velocity-dependent and is a normal physiological state.

How does abnormal muscle tone affect daily life?

Abnormal muscle tone, whether increased (hypertonia) or decreased (hypotonia), can impact mobility, posture, and overall physical function. It may lead to difficulties with activities of daily living, such as walking, dressing, and fine motor tasks.

What are the treatment options for spasticity?

Treatment options for spasticity may include medications such as baclofen or botulinum toxin injections to reduce muscle tone, physical therapy to improve flexibility and strength, orthotics or splints to support affected limbs, and in some cases, surgical interventions.