Spasticity Experience Domains in Persons With Spinal Cord Injury

Jane S. Mahoney*, Joan C. Engebretson, Karon F. Cook, Karen A. Hart, Susan Robinson-Whelen, Arthur M. Sherwood

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Mahoney JS, Engebretson JC, Cook KF, Hart KA, Robinson-Whelen S, Sherwood AM. Spasticity experience domains in persons with spinal cord injury. 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)287-294
Number of pages8
JournalArchives of physical medicine and rehabilitation
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2007


  • Muscle spasticity
  • Rehabilitation
  • Spasm
  • Spinal cord injuries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


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