Through treatment, spasticity can be reduced, but is the patient any healthier? It’s a basic question that has already been answered in the treatment of other ailments like high blood pressure, but no comparable research has been done on spasticity to illustrate the scientific health benefits of treatments. But that is changing thanks to organizations like West Park.
Patients at West Park’s Spasticity Management Clinic see the difference firsthand. One patient was thrilled to report he was able to pick grapes off a stem for the first time. Another was approaching his personal goal of being able to drive with a stick shift. West Park is trying to match these anecdotal milestones with universal, tested assessment scales.
Still missing from the scientific literature is research on the many stimuli that affect spasticity. Emotions, such as when someone is really upset or angry, can change a person’s muscle tone. Spasticity is also affected by physical illnesses, infection and hormones.
The West Park team is looking at the various factors and questioning whether one stimulus is more likely to aggravate spasticity than another.
On a larger scale, West Park wants to know more about the determinants of spasticity. When someone comes in with mild spasticity, it’s difficult to know how the condition will progress. Do age, gender and environment play a role? If the patient has had a stroke, does the location of the stroke make a difference? Research into such determinants of spasticity could make a big difference in predicting who will need further treatment and when.
As home to one of Canada’s largest spasticity clinics, West Park houses an extensive collection of spasticity data. This impressive bank of knowledge means West Park is playing a leadership role in a study of such magnitude, it requires the participation of multiple centres.
West Park spasticity researchers are just at the trailhead of discovery. Undaunted by the challenges and many questions ahead, they are building a pathway of discovery that ultimately will mean better care for thousands of patients.