Clonus is a neurological condition that occurs when nerve cells that control the muscles are damaged.

Clonus spasms often occur in a rhythmic pattern. Symptoms are common in a few different muscles, especially in the extremities. These include the

  • ankles
  • knees
  • calves
  • wrists
  • jaw
  • biceps

Damaged nerves can cause muscles to misfire, leading to involuntary contractions, muscle tightness, and pain.

Clonus can cause a muscle to pulse for an extended period. This pulsing can lead to muscle fatigue, which may make it difficult for a person to use the muscle later.

Clonus can make everyday activities strenuous and can even be debilitating. In this article, learn more about the causes and treatment.

Causes

While researchers do not understand the exact cause of clonus, it appears to be due to damaged nerve passageways in the brain.

A number of chronic conditions are associated with clonus. As these conditions require specialized treatment, the outcome may vary in each case.

Conditions associated with clonus include:

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disorder that attacks the protective sheath around the nerves. The resulting damage disrupts the nerve signals in the brain.

A stroke starves a part of the brain of oxygen, usually due to a blood clot. A stroke may cause clonus if it damages the area in the brain that controls movement.

Infections, such as meningitis or encephalitis, can damage brain cells or nerves if they become severe.

Major injuries, such as head trauma from a major accident, may also damage the nerves in the brain or spinal cord.

Serotonin syndrome is a potentially dangerous reaction that occurs if too much serotonin builds up in the body. This buildup could be due to drug abuse, but it may also be caused by taking high doses of medications or mixing certain medical drugs.

A brain tumor that pushes against the motor neurons in the brain or causes these areas to swell may lead to clonus.

Other causes of clonus include anything that has the potential to affect the nerves or brain cells, including :

  • cerebral palsy
  • Lou Gehrig disease
  • anoxic brain injury
  • hereditary spastic paraparesis
  • kidney or liver failure
  • overdoses of drugs such as Tramadol, which is a strong painkiller

Treatment

Treatment for clonus varies depending on the underlying cause. Doctors may try many different treatment methods before finding the one that works best for each person.

Medications

Sedative medications and muscle relaxers help reduce clonus symptoms. Doctors often recommend these drugs in the first instance for people experiencing clonus.

Medications that may help with clonus contractions include:

  • baclofen (Lioresal)
  • dantrolene (Dantrium)
  • tizanidine (Zanaflex)
  • gabapentin (Neurotonin)
  • diazepam (Valium)
  • clonazepam (Klonopin)

Sedatives and anti-spasticity medications can cause drowsiness or sleepiness. People taking these medications should not drive a car or operate heavy machinery.

Other side effects may include mental confusion, lightheadedness, or even trouble walking. A person should discuss these side effects with a doctor, especially if they are likely to disrupt a persons work or everyday activities.

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