Clonus: definition, mechanism, treatment

Med Glas (Zenica). 2015 Feb;12(1):19-26.


Clonus is involuntary and rhythmic muscle contractions caused by a permanent lesion in descending motor neurons. Clonus may be found at the ankle, patella, triceps surae, wrist, jaw, biceps brachii. In general, clonus may occur in any muscle with a frequency of 5-8 Hz and the average period of oscillations of the ankle clonus is approximately 160-200 ms. Plantar flexion (PF) comprises 45% of the period, dorsifleksion (DF) comprises 55% of the period. The first beat is always longer, with the time shortening in continuing beats and becoming stable in the 4th or 5th period. The exact mechanism of clonus remains unclear. Two different hypotheses have been asserted regarding the development of clonus. The most widely accepted explanation is that hyperactive stretch reflexes in clonus are caused by self-excitation. Another alternative explanation for clonus is central generator activity that arises as a consequence of appropriate peripheral events and produces rhythmic stimulation of the lower motor neurons. The durations of clonus burst were found longer than the durations of Soleus medium-latency reflex (MLR). There is a similarity in their nature, although the speed and cause of the stretch of triceps surae differ in the MLR and the clonus, and there is a sufficient period of time for group II afferents and for other spinal mechanisms to be involved in the clonus, together with Ia afferents. Clonus can be treated by using baclofen, applying cold, botox or phenol injections.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Baclofen / therapeutic use
  • Botulinum Toxins, Type A / therapeutic use
  • Cryotherapy
  • Dyskinesias / etiology
  • Dyskinesias / pathology*
  • Dyskinesias / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology*
  • Phenol / therapeutic use
  • Reflex, Stretch


  • Phenol
  • Botulinum Toxins, Type A
  • Baclofen