What are the motor symptoms of a spinal cord attack of MS?

If the spinal cord lesion is in the cervical spine (i.e. neck) the motor symptoms will be weakness in one or both arms or hands depending on the level of the spine affected). If the spinal cord lesion is in the thoracic or lumbar spine the motor symptoms will be weakness in one or both hips, legs, or ankles again depending on the level affected. Bowel or bladder function may also be affected. A spastic bladder in which the patient cannot empty their bladder fully is quite common in those with spinal lesions in MS. Although tone will be increased (i.e. spastic) this takes weeks to develop and is typically not seen in the acute attack.
Louis Rosner

Motor symptoms consist of disturbances in moving one or more limbs. These movement disturbances may include weakness or spasticity (the tendency of a limb to become stiff and relax only with difficulty) or both.

Weakness: Weakness may be so mild that the complaint will be that the limb just tires easily or feels heavy. Or the weakness may be such that the limb is difficult to lift. Often the weakness disappears after resting or occurs later in the day when the leg, for example, has been fatigued by a lot of standing and walking. Often the individual notices that the toes of shoes wear out prematurely and walking over rough surfaces such as carpets and unpaved walkways is more difficult than over smooth surfaces. Weakness can also appear in the arms or hands, affecting dexterity and causing handwriting to become less legible. Often, in early or mild cases, it is difficult to detect weakness in the limbs in an ordinary exam. But abnormalities can be found in tests of motor reflexes.

Spasticity: Spasticity (rigidity or stiffness) usually involves only the leg, rarely the arm. Individuals may start to notice they can't walk as quickly, or running to catch a ball seems more difficult. Walking up or down stairs is no longer effortless. The limb may stiffen out or draw up involuntarily at times, causing "charley horses" to occur, especially with changes in position such as getting into bed at night. These spasms are more inconvenient than disabling, although some may result in falling without warning.

Weakness by itself is a symptom that brings up many possible diagnoses, with MS far down on the list. Other conditions to consider include pinched nerves, slipped discs, diabetic neuritis, thyroid disease, or even lead poisoning. Weakness with spasticity is more suggestive of something wrong in the spinal cord, with MS high on the list.

Multiple Sclerosis

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Multiple Sclerosis

Too often, multiple sclerosis is thought of only as "the crippler of young adults." But in fact, 75 percent of all people with MS will never need a wheelchair. In Multiple Sclerosis, Dr. Louis J....

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.