Spasticity versus strength in cerebral palsy: relationships among involuntary resistance, voluntary torque, and motor function

Eur J Neurol. 2001 Nov;8 Suppl 5:40-9. doi: 10.1046/j.1468-1331.2001.00037.x.


Despite the lack of consensus of the role of spasticity in the observed motor disability in cerebral palsy (CP), alleviation of spasticity remains a primary focus in the clinical management of these patients. The purposes of this study were to: (1) quantify voluntary torque and passive resistance across speeds in the hamstrings and quadriceps muscle groups with respect to the presence of stretch responses and/or passive muscle stiffness in patients with CP compared to age-related children without disability, and (2) relate these parameters to each other and to functional performance, as measured by the Gross Motor Function Measure (GMFM), in CP. Included were 23 subjects with CP, sub-grouped by the presence or absence of stretch responses as determined by electromyography, and 9 subjects without CP. Results indicated that peak torque was considerably greater in the comparison group than for each of the CP groups and resistance was greater in the CP group with spasticity compared to the nonspastic CP group in both muscles at all speeds. Stiffness differed between the spastic CP group and the comparison group only for the quadriceps at the fastest speed. Higher passive resistance torque and stiffness were correlated with decreased voluntary torque, particularly for the antagonists, and with lower GMFM scores. In conclusion, strength and motor function are related to the magnitude of resistance torque and stiffness in CP, although the small amount of variance explained reinforces the multidimensional nature of this disorder, and the challenges inherent in managing it.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Botulinum Toxins, Type A / therapeutic use
  • Cerebral Palsy / drug therapy
  • Cerebral Palsy / physiopathology*
  • Child
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knee / physiopathology
  • Leg / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology
  • Muscle Spasticity / physiopathology*
  • Muscle Spindles / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology*
  • Neuromuscular Agents / therapeutic use
  • Tendons / physiopathology
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Neuromuscular Agents
  • Botulinum Toxins, Type A