What causes hyperreflexia and what should I do about it?

Symptom Database

Hyperreflexia, also known as excessive reflexes or increased reflexes, is a central nervous system disorder that is characterized by abnormal reflexes and reflex hyperactivity. This neurological condition can be caused by various factors and can lead to a range of symptoms. Understanding the causes and symptoms of hyperreflexia is crucial in order to seek appropriate treatment and manage the condition effectively.

Causes of Hyperreflexia

Hyperreflexia can be caused by several underlying conditions or factors. Some of the common causes include:

  • Spinal cord injuries: Damage to the spinal cord can disrupt the normal functioning of the central nervous system, leading to hyperreflexia.
  • Multiple sclerosis: This autoimmune disease affects the central nervous system and can result in abnormal reflexes.
  • Stroke: A stroke can cause damage to the brain, leading to changes in reflexes and the development of hyperreflexia.
  • Brain tumors: Tumors in the brain can interfere with the normal functioning of the central nervous system, causing hyperreflexia.
  • Neurological disorders: Conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and cerebral palsy can contribute to the development of hyperreflexia.

Symptoms of Hyperreflexia

Hyperreflexia can manifest in various ways, and the symptoms may vary depending on the underlying cause. Some common symptoms of hyperreflexia include:

  • Exaggerated reflex responses: Individuals with hyperreflexia may exhibit excessively strong or brisk reflexes in response to stimuli.
  • Clonus: Clonus refers to rhythmic muscle contractions that occur in response to a reflex. It is often observed in individuals with hyperreflexia.
  • Spasticity: Hyperreflexia can lead to increased muscle tone and stiffness, resulting in spastic movements.
  • Difficulty with coordination: Abnormal reflexes can affect coordination and balance, making it challenging to perform precise movements.
  • Muscle weakness: In some cases, hyperreflexia may be accompanied by muscle weakness, further impacting motor function.

Treatment for Hyperreflexia

While there is no specific cure for hyperreflexia, treatment aims to manage the symptoms and address the underlying cause. The following approaches may be utilized:


Medications can be prescribed to help control the symptoms of hyperreflexia. Muscle relaxants, such as baclofen or diazepam, may be used to reduce muscle spasticity and improve overall motor function. Additionally, medications that target the underlying condition causing hyperreflexia, such as those used for multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease, may also be prescribed.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in managing hyperreflexia. A physical therapist can design a personalized exercise program to improve muscle strength, flexibility, and coordination. They may also incorporate techniques such as stretching, range-of-motion exercises, and balance training to help individuals regain control over their reflexes and movements.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy focuses on improving daily living skills and enhancing independence. An occupational therapist can provide strategies and assistive devices to help individuals with hyperreflexia perform activities of daily living more efficiently. They may also recommend modifications to the home or workplace to ensure a safe and accessible environment.

Speech Therapy

In cases where hyperreflexia affects speech and swallowing, speech therapy can be beneficial. A speech therapist can work with individuals to improve their communication skills, address swallowing difficulties, and provide techniques to manage any speech-related challenges caused by hyperreflexia.

Alternative Therapies

Some individuals may find relief from hyperreflexia symptoms through alternative therapies such as acupuncture, massage therapy, or biofeedback. These approaches can help promote relaxation, reduce muscle tension, and improve overall well-being. However, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before pursuing any alternative treatments.


Hyperreflexia, characterized by excessive reflexes and reflex hyperactivity, is a neurological condition that can be caused by various factors. Understanding the causes and symptoms of hyperreflexia is essential in order to seek appropriate treatment and manage the condition effectively. While there is no cure for hyperreflexia, a combination of medication, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and alternative therapies can help individuals alleviate symptoms and improve their quality of life. If you are experiencing abnormal reflexes or suspect you may have hyperreflexia, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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