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Living With Stiff Person Syndrome

By Oreoritse Tariemi
25 December 2022   |   5:30 pm
Stiff Person Syndrome (SPS) is a rare neurological disorder characterised by progressive muscle stiffness, rigidity and spasms. The disorder is also known as Stiff Man Syndrome, stiff person-like syndrome, and Moersch-Woltman Syndrome. The cause of SPS is not known, but evidence suggests that it is an autoimmune disorder, meaning the body’s own immune system attacks…

Stiff Person Syndrome Photo Getty Images

Stiff Person Syndrome (SPS) is a rare neurological disorder characterised by progressive muscle stiffness, rigidity and spasms. The disorder is also known as Stiff Man Syndrome, stiff person-like syndrome, and Moersch-Woltman Syndrome. The cause of SPS is not known, but evidence suggests that it is an autoimmune disorder, meaning the body’s own immune system attacks itself. The disorder typically begins in adulthood, with a gradual onset of symptoms.

SPS is characterised by two primary clinical features: rigidity and spasms. Rigidity is a type of muscle stiffness that is usually present in the back, chest, and abdominal muscles. It can also affect the arms and legs. Rigidity causes a person to move with a stiff, shuffling gait. Spasms are sudden, violent contractions of the muscles that can cause pain and difficulty moving.

SPS is a progressive disorder, meaning that symptoms will worsen over time. In the early stages of SPS, the stiffness may be mild and only affect certain areas of the body. As the disorder progresses, stiffness can become more severe and affect more areas of the body. In the later stages of SPS, rigidity and spasms may become unbearable, making it difficult to move and perform daily activities.

Treating SPS

Diagnosis of SPS is based on clinical symptoms and laboratory tests. A doctor may order blood tests to check for antibodies associated with SPS, such as anti-GAD and anti-amphiphysin. Imaging studies, such as CT or MRI scans, can also be used to detect muscle abnormalities associated with SPS.

Lower back pain photo Alliance Spine and Pain Centers

The primary treatment for SPS is immunotherapy, which involves using medications to suppress the immune system and reduce the body’s production of antibodies. Common medications used for SPS include corticosteroids, methotrexate, and rituximab. Physical therapy can also be used to reduce muscle stiffness and spasms. Other treatments, such as anticonvulsants, muscle relaxants, and botulinum toxin injections, may also be used to manage symptoms.

Although there is no known cure for SPS, treatments can be effective in managing symptoms and slowing the progression of the disorder. It is important to note that SPS is a complex disorder, and it is important to work with a doctor to create a treatment plan that is tailored to your individual needs. Additionally, it is important to practice self-care strategies to manage stress and fatigue, which can worsen SPS symptoms.

Final Word

Stiff Person Syndrome is a rare and complex disorder that affects people of all ages. While there is no known cure, treatments can be effective in managing symptoms and slowing the progression of the disorder. It is important to work with a doctor to create a personalised treatment plan that is tailored to your individual needs. Additionally, self-care strategies can be beneficial in managing stress and fatigue, which can worsen SPS symptoms.