Henry Winkler spoke this week with WakeMed rehab patients, caregivers, and staff about his personal connection to upper limb spasticity and the Open Arms Campaign.
Best known for his role as “The Fonz” on the popular TV sitcom, “Happy Days”, Winkler took on the role of caregiver after his mother suffered a stroke. As a result of her stroke, his mother developed upper limb spasticity, a debilitating condition that affects one million Americans following a stroke. It also affects patients who have problems with their brain or spinal cord associated with cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis.
The condition is often painful, said Dr. Patrick O’Brien, director of WakeMed Rehab Hospital. A lesion on the brain or spinal cord can cause muscles in the arm to contract, become tight and stiffen.
Treatment options include:
- Physical and/or occupational therapy to help you stretch your affected limbs, improve your strength and mobility, and perform daily activities.
- Botox injections were approved by the FDA to help treat the increased muscle stiffness in the elbow, wrist, and fingers that often develops in upper spasticity patients. It is not a substitute for the normal course of care.
- Oral medications work through the body to reduce muscle stiffness and pain.
- A catheter can deliver medication directly into the fluid-filled area around the spinal cord.
- Surgery is only considered when upper limb spasticity goes untreated and results in contractures.