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What Is the Treatment for Ankle Clonus?

By Glyn Sinclair
Updated May 17, 2024
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Clonus refers to a condition whereby muscles contract and relax involuntarily, usually in large motions. This disorder may point to underlying neurological problems such as multiple sclerosis or stroke and most commonly occurs in the ankle and foot. Ankle clonus can occur when the ankle jerks up and down in a spasmodic contraction and relaxation manner. More than four or five movements of the ankle in this fashion can be thought to be pathological. This means that it is considered extreme and may be caused by underlying medical issues.

Ankle clonus may be a sign of cerebral palsy and some children who exhibit signs in the first year of life can go on to develop cerebral palsy. This condition refers to the disorder of muscle tone and movement that may be caused by an injury or compromised development of the brain before birth. The test for ankle clonus is relatively simple. A physician will typically flex the foot back and forth and if it continues to flex on its own once released then this may be an indication of clonus, and potentially cerebral palsy. This particular form of clonus is the most common.

Other potential causes of this condition may include brain disorders, serotonin syndrome, which is a drug reaction that causes the patient to develop too much serotonin, and spinal cord lesions. Liver failure, head injuries, Alzheimer's disease and chemical poisoning are all other underlying causes for this condition. A physician will typically require a list of medications that are being taken, as well as a family history before settling on a course of treatment. Very often a person suffering from clonus will be referred to a physical therapist as a first course of action. Depending on the severity of the condition, they may also be required to see a neurologist.

There are a few surgical treatment options for ankle clonus. One of these options could include surgery to remove lesions within the brain or spinal cord. Certain ankle stretching exercises can be employed as another option. Drug therapy may also be recommended to help ease the symptoms of this disorder. Patients suffering from this will sometimes use supports such as canes and braces to help with their stability.

Ankle clonus often presents with other symptoms. These can include atrophy or wasting at the ankle site. Weakness is typically present as well when testing for this condition. If the spasmodic movements are occurring in conjunction with headaches, this may be an indication of some underlying brain related issue.

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Discussion Comments

By anon992141 — On Aug 17, 2015

I had major neck surgery two and a half years ago now have clonus I am a single parent of a 9 year old and it stinks. I'm off balance and my foot drags, but I still get no answers. I've been in physical therapy for two and a half years and am not getting better. Please help.

By anon986092 — On Jan 22, 2015

I have suffered ankle clonus for over 40 years and it has only recently been diagnosed. It was believe to be as a result of a recent brain injury, but they found I had it for years, but it was thought it was something else. The cause should be checked, but if nothing found, don't worry. If the person also has epilepsy, then get them to prescribe medication for clonus and see if that resolves the epilepsy.

By bear78 — On Aug 17, 2012

I have a cousin who has MS and he also has bilateral ankle clonus because of it. It can be somewhat debilitating for him, especially when he's trying to walk.

The ankle clonus is not being treated per se . Doctors have said that the best they can do is treat the underlying condition which is multiple sclerosis. He is getting neurorehabilitation so he is getting physical therapy and takes anti-inflammatory and pain relieving medications. When his MS symptoms are under control, his ankle clonus gets a little better too.

By literally45 — On Aug 17, 2012

@fify-- Hey, don't panic. As far as I know, ankle clonus in infants can happen without an underlying condition. Did you try the clonus test? Flex the foot back and forth and see how many times it contracts. If it's more than eight beats, the doctor might want neurological testing done.

If not, it's probably nothing to worry about. He might suggest vitamins to make sure that there isn't a deficiency. Ankle clonus in infants might not always require treatment or the treatment could be as simple as vitamin supplementation. So don't jump to conclusions and worry for no reason.

By fify — On Aug 16, 2012
My daughter is one month old and appears to have ankle clonus. It doesn't happen constantly, but once in a while, I see her ankle contracting and relaxing several times in a row. It first started a couple of days ago and I have seen the ankle clonus about four times so far.

I'm really worried, what could this be? I talked to the nurse about it over the phone and she didn't seem too worried. My daughter has a checkup scheduled next week and the nurse said they will examine her then.

I don't know if I can wait until then! I want to know why my daughter is doing this and how it can be treated.

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