Anatomic correlates of painful tonic spasms in multiple sclerosis

Mov Disord. 1999 Mar;14(2):331-5. doi: 10.1002/1531-8257(199903)14:2<331::aid-mds1020>;2-h.


Painful tonic spasms (PTS) are now regarded as a typical symptom of multiple sclerosis but pathologic or radiologic findings rarely have been described. We report clinical and magnetic resonance imaging records of five original cases. In all of them, lesions likely responsible for unilateral PTS involved the motor pathway at the level of the posterior limb of the internal capsule or the cerebral peduncle on the opposite side. Closeness of motor fibers seems to be the most important underlying anatomic factor because it enables involvement of a higher proportion of axons by a single demyelinating lesion and radial spread of ephaptic activation. In turn, preservation of the underlying pyramidal-spinal tract could make it easier for the pathologic discharge to reach the peripheral effectors and generate PTS.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Dystonia / pathology*
  • Dystonia / physiopathology
  • Efferent Pathways / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Multiple Sclerosis / pathology*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / physiopathology
  • Muscle Spasticity / pathology*
  • Muscle Spasticity / physiopathology
  • Nerve Degeneration / pathology
  • Pain / pathology*
  • Pain / physiopathology