Spasticity experience domains in persons with spinal cord injury

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2007 Mar;88(3):287-94. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2006.12.029.


Objective: To understand the everyday life experiences of persons who have spasticity associated with spinal cord injury (SCI).

Design: Applied ethnographic design.

Setting: Patients' homes and rehabilitation clinics.

Participants: Twenty-four people with SCI who experience spasticity.

Interventions: Not applicable.

Main outcome measures: Domains identified through qualitative analysis of in-depth open-ended interviews.

Results: Domain analysis revealed 7 domains: physical, activity, emotional, economic, interpersonal, management, and cognitive. Descriptive subcategories within each domain were identified. Patients personalized the meaning of spasticity and expressed their understandings of the condition in ways that may not be consistent with clinical definitions. Some patients suggested that being able to control spasticity was preferable to total suppression.

Conclusions: Spasticity-related interventions need to be aimed at what matters most to the patient. It is critical for clinicians to understand patients' experiences to make accurate assessments, effectively evaluate treatment interventions, and select appropriate management strategies. When providers reconfigure patients' descriptions to fit neatly with a biomedical understanding of spasticity without carefully assessing the descriptions in terms of what matters most to patients, a potential risk for misappropriating interventions may arise.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cost of Illness
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Spasticity / psychology*
  • Muscle Spasticity / therapy
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain Management
  • Self Care
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / psychology*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / therapy