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Disabil Rehabil. 2005 Jan 7-21;27(1-2):19-32.

Biomechanical approaches applied to the lower and upper limb for the measurement of spasticity: a systematic review of the literature.

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Department of Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering, Salisbury District Hospital, Salisbury, UK.



To review and characterise biomechanical approaches for the measurement of spasticity as one component of the upper motor neurone syndrome.


Systematic literature searches based on defined constructs and a four-step review process of approaches used or described to measure spasticity, its association with function or associated phenomena. Most approaches were limited to individual joints and therefore, to reflect this trend, references were grouped according to which body joint(s) were investigated or whether it addressed a functional activity. For each joint, references were further sub-divided into the types of measurement method described.


A database of 335 references was established for the review process. The knee, ankle and elbow joints were the most popular, perhaps reflecting the assumption that they are mono-planar in movement and therefore simpler to assess. Seven measurement methods were identified: five involving passive movement (manual, controlled displacement, controlled torque, gravitational and tendon tap) and two involving active movement (voluntary and functional). Generally, the equipment described was in an experimental stage and there was a lack of information on system properties, such as accuracy or reliability. Patient testing was either by cohort or case studies. The review also conveyed the myriad of interpretations of the concept of spasticity.


Though biomechanical approaches provide quantitative data, the review highlighted several limitations that have prevented them being established as an appropriate method for clinical application to measure spasticity.

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