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Spasticity vs. Rigidity: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on December 13, 2023
Spasticity is a condition where muscles stiffen or tighten, preventing normal fluid movement; rigidity is a constant muscle stiffness that affects motion.

Key Differences

Spasticity is characterized by an increase in muscle tone, leading to stiffness and spasms, often resulting from damage to the brain, spinal cord, or motor nerves. Rigidity, on the other hand, is a constant state of stiffness and inflexibility in the muscles, commonly associated with diseases like Parkinson’s.
In spasticity, muscle stiffness increases with rapid movement. This can be associated with conditions like cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis. Rigidity, however, involves uniform muscle stiffness that doesn’t change with movement and is often seen in Parkinsonian syndromes.
Spasticity often causes a velocity-dependent increase in muscle tone, meaning the faster the limb movement, the greater the resistance. Rigidity, in contrast, remains constant regardless of the speed of movement and often presents as a consistent, uniform resistance to passive movement.
Treatment for spasticity often includes muscle relaxants, physical therapy, and sometimes surgery, aimed at reducing muscle stiffness and spasms. For rigidity, treatment usually involves medications like dopamine agonists, along with physiotherapy, focusing on reducing muscle stiffness.
The presence of spasticity can be indicative of a lesion in the central nervous system, particularly the corticospinal tract. Rigidity, however, is typically a sign of basal ganglia dysfunction, often seen in Parkinson's disease and other extrapyramidal disorders.

Comparison Chart


Velocity-dependent muscle stiffness
Constant muscle stiffness

Associated Conditions

Cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis
Parkinson’s disease, extrapyramidal disorders

Muscle Tone

Increases with rapid movement
Uniform and continuous

Response to Movement

Resistance increases with speed of movement
Resistance remains constant at all speeds

Treatment Approaches

Muscle relaxants, physical therapy
Dopamine agonists, physiotherapy

Spasticity and Rigidity Definitions


An involuntary increase in muscle contraction.
Spasticity in his legs impeded his ability to run.


Uniform stiffness of muscles, often seen in Parkinson’s disease.
His rigidity was an early sign of Parkinson's.


Muscle stiffness that worsens with movement, often due to neurological issues.
Rapid arm movements triggered her spasticity.


Constant muscle stiffness irrespective of movement.
The rigidity in his arms remained throughout.


A condition of increased muscle tone causing stiffness and spasms.
His spasticity made it difficult to walk smoothly.


A symptom indicating basal ganglia dysfunction.
The neurologist noted rigidity as a key symptom.


A condition that disrupts normal muscle control and movement.
Managing spasticity is key to improving her mobility.


A persistent muscle tone that affects motion and flexibility.
Rigidity made bending his knees difficult.


A symptom of disorders affecting the brain and spinal cord.
Spasticity is a common issue in cerebral palsy.


Continuous resistance to passive movement of limbs.
Even at rest, the rigidity in her muscles was apparent.


Of, relating to, or characterized by spasms
A spastic colon.
A spastic form of cerebral palsy.


The quality or state of being rigid.


Affected by spastic paralysis.


An instance of being rigid.


Offensive Slang Clumsy or inept.


The quality or state of being rigid; lack of pliability; the quality of resisting change of physical shape


A person affected with spastic paralysis.


The amount of resistance with which a body opposes change of form.


The state, quality or property of being spastic.


Stiffness of appearance or manner; want of ease or elegance.


A state of spasm.


(economics) stickiness (of prices/wages etc.). Describing the tendency of prices and money wages to adjust to changes in the economy with a certain delay.


The tendency to, or capability of suffering, spasm.


The quality or state of being rigid; want of pliability; the quality of resisting change of form; the amount of resistance with which a body opposes change of form; - opposed to flexibility, ductility, malleability, and softness.


The quality of moving or acting in spasms


Stiffness of appearance or manner; want of ease or elegance.


Severity; rigor.


The physical property of being stiff and resisting bending


The quality of being rigid and rigorously severe


Is spasticity a form of paralysis?

No, it's increased muscle tone, not paralysis, but can coexist with it.

Does rigidity affect balance?

Yes, it can impact balance and coordination.

Is spasticity painful?

It can be, due to muscle stiffness and spasms.

Is spasticity always a sign of a serious condition?

It often indicates underlying neurological issues.

Is rigidity a progressive condition?

It can be, especially in neurodegenerative diseases.

Can rigidity occur in all muscles?

It often affects specific muscle groups, especially in the limbs.

Are there surgeries for spasticity?

Yes, in severe cases, surgeries like tendon release are options.

Can children have spasticity?

Yes, often seen in conditions like cerebral palsy.

Does spasticity affect sleep?

Yes, muscle spasms can disrupt sleep.

Can medication reduce spasticity?

Certain medications can help manage it.

Is rigidity reversible?

It depends on the cause; it can be managed but not always reversible.

Does temperature affect rigidity?

Extreme temperatures may worsen symptoms.

Can diet impact spasticity?

A healthy diet can support overall muscular health.

Are there specific tests for rigidity?

Neurological examinations can help assess rigidity.

Can rigidity be treated with exercise?

Exercise can help, but should be done under guidance.

Is spasticity linked to muscle weakness?

It can coexist with muscle weakness.

Can spasticity occur suddenly?

It usually develops gradually but can appear suddenly after an injury.

Can stress affect rigidity?

Yes, stress can exacerbate symptoms.

Is rigidity a sign of stroke?

It can be a symptom of various neurological conditions, including stroke.

Does rigidity worsen with age?

It can, especially in degenerative neurological conditions.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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