Home > Journals > European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine > Past Issues > Articles online first > European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine 2017 Dec 04



Publication history
Cite this article as


A Journal on Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation after Pathological Events

Official Journal of the Italian Society of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine (SIMFER), European Society of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine (ESPRM), European Union of Medical Specialists - Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine Section (UEMS-PRM), Mediterranean Forum of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine (MFPRM), Hellenic Society of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine (EEFIAP)
In association with International Society of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine (ISPRM)
Indexed/Abstracted in: CINAHL, Current Contents/Clinical Medicine, EMBASE, PubMed/MEDLINE, Science Citation Index Expanded (SciSearch), Scopus
Impact Factor 1,827



European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine 2017 Dec 04

DOI: 10.23736/S1973-9087.17.04886-9


language: English

Spasticity or periodic limb movements?

Jonathan LEVY 1, 3 , Sarah HARTLEY 2, Elsa MAURUC-SOUBIRAC 1, Antoine LEOTARD 1, Frederic LOFASO 2, 3, Maria-Antonia QUERA-SALVA 2, Djamel BENSMAIL 1, 3

1 APHP, Raymond Poincaré University Hospital, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Garches, France; 2 APHP, Raymond Poincaré University Hospital, Department of Physiology and Functional Testing, Sleep Unit (EA4047), Garches, France; 3 INSERM, University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, UMR 1179, Montigny-le-Bretonneux, France


BACKGROUND: Spasticity and spasms are distressing features of the upper motor neuron syndrome (UMNS) following spinal cord injuries (SCI) or multiple sclerosis (MS), and have common therapeutic implications. Despite an increase of antispastic drugs and strategies, sometimes up to the surgical implant of intrathecal baclofen pump, some patients still complain of disabling spasms, which poses diagnostic and therapeutic challenges. Although clinically similar, flexor spasms due to pyramidal tract disruption must be clearly differentiated from periodic limb movements (PLM), often accompanying restless leg syndrome (RLS) and occurring during sleep. We raised the hypothesis of this differential as a diagnostic confusion in this particular population. AIMS - i) to search for RLS with PLM in consecutive patients referred for uncontrolled disabling spasms despite treatment, by nocturnal polysomnography (PSG); ii) to report the efficacy of dopaminergic agonists on PLM in this population.
DESIGN: Observational prospective study.
SETTING AND POPULATION: All consecutive patients with MS or SCI, referred to our spasticity clinic from March 2014 to July 2016 for the management of persistent and disabling spasms despite treatment. Obvious daytime spasticity or flexor spasms were not considered. When spasms prevailed at evening, night, or in supine position, patients underwent a nocturnal PSG. METHODS - Patients were assessed for RLS by clinical interview and for PLM by PSG. Patients with confirmed PLM (≥15 per hour of sleep) were treated with low dosage of pramipexole (after an iron deficiency was ruled out) and reassessed by PSG the following night.
RESULTS: Forty-five patients were included. All fulfilled RLS criteria, and PLMs were confirmed in 39 patients. Median PLM index, and related arousals were 45.9[19.8-76.2] and 5.1[1.5-15] events per hour respectively. Nine patients treated with pramipexole underwent an early second PSG which showed an improvement of PLM index and arousals (P=0.0007 and 0.01 respectively).
CONCLUSION: In this princeps study, we demonstrated that in SCI and MS patients, “persistent spasms” inefficiently treated by antispastic drugs could in fact be PLM. Furthermore, we first reported the efficacy of dopaminergic agonists for PLM in an MS and SCI population.
CLINICAL REHABILITATION IMPACT: This study brings new insights on abnormal movements, often misinterpreted as spasticity, and their management. We suggest to include a PSG in the diagnostic approach of uncontrolled spasms prevailing at night or in supine position, to search for PLM, which are easily treatable.

KEY WORDS: Multiple Sclerosis - Spinal Cord Injuries - Restless Leg Syndrome - Periodic Limb Movements - Nocturnal Myoclonus - Muscle Spasticity - Spasms - Dopamine Agonists - Baclofen

top of page

Publication History

Article first published online: December 4, 2017
Manuscript accepted: December 4, 2017
Manuscript revised: November 3, 2017
Manuscript received: June 29, 2017

Cite this article as

Levy J, Hartley S, Mauruc-Soubirac E, Leotard A, Lofaso F, Quera-Salva MA et al. Spasticity or periodic limb movements ?. Eur J Phys Rehabil Med 2017 Dec 04. DOI: 10.23736/S1973-9087.17.04886-9

Corresponding author e-mail