Search in�� ��for��
Career Center
New Hospital Update
Learn More About MCI
Bill Payment
Upcoming Events
Find a Physician
Press Releases
Maps and Directions
Visiting Hours
Medical Services
Specialty Programs and Services
Volunteer Services
Birthing Center Tours
Family Care of Eastern Jackson County
Jackson County Medical Group
Family & Friends
Virtual Body
Virtual Cheercards
Web Babies
Decision Tools
Self-Assessment Tools
Natural and Alternative Treatments Main Index
Health Sources
Cancer InDepth
Heart Care Center
HealthDay News
Wellness Centers
Aging and Health
Alternative Health
Sports and Fitness
Food and Nutrition
Men's Health
Mental Health
Kids' and Teens' Health
Healthy Pregnancy
Travel and Health
Women's Health
Genus MD
Genus MD
Physician Websites
Legal Disclaimers
Privacy Notice

Send This Page To A Friend
Print This Page


(Contracture Deformity)



Contractures refer to the permanent tightening of tissues. This includes muscles, tendons, ligaments, or skin. It makes it hard or impossible to move the nearby joints.

Contracture Deformity of the Hand

Nucleus factsheet image

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


Causes    TOP

Contractures may be caused by:

  • Deformity
  • Immobility
  • Injury
  • Chronic inflammation

Certain disorders that affect nerves and muscles almost always lead to contractures. For example:

Spasticity is a change in muscle tone. It is caused by injuries to the brain or spine, such as stroke. It can often lead to contracture.


Risk Factors    TOP

Factors that may increase your risk of contractures include:


Symptoms    TOP

Contracture causes:

  • Loss of motion in a joint
  • Pain

Diagnosis    TOP

You will be asked about your symptoms and past health. Your joints will be examined for range of motion.

Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with x-rays.


Treatment    TOP

Treatment includes:


  • Physical therapy can helps to increase mobility, joint elasticity, and muscle strength.
  • Occupational therapy can help bring back movement to do daily tasks.

The main goal is to maintain or improve range of motion. Treatmen may include:

  • Ultrasound—for large joint contractures
  • Therapeutic massage

Casts or Splints

Casts or splints can keep the joint in a better position. They may help to stretch soft tissues. They are often used for contractures cause by nerve injury or immobility. Casts need to be changed on a regular basis.

Surgery    TOP

Surgery may be needed to release tight tendons, ligaments, and joints. This may be used if other treatments have not worked well.


Prevention    TOP

Prevention of contractures depends on the cause. After acute injuries or orthopedic surgery, contractures may be prevented by:

  • Early movement
  • Physical therapy
  • Continuous passive motion (CPM) machines—keep joints in motion

Aggressive care of issues like rheumatoid arthritis may also delay or prevent contractures.


American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases


Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety

Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons


Fergusson D, Hutton B, et al. The epidemiology of major joint contractures: a systematic review of the literature. Clinical Orthopaedics & Related Research. 2007:456:22-299.

Huckstep RL. Management of neglected joint contractures. Clinical Orthopaedics & Related Research. 456:58-64, 2007 Mar.

Occupational therapy's role in skilled nursing facilities. The American Occupational Therapy Association website. Available at: https://www.aota.org/-/media/corporate/files/aboutot/professionals/whatisot/rdp/facts/factsheet_skillednursingfacilities.pdf. Accessed December 31, 2018.

Skalsky A, McDonald C. Prevention and management of limb contractures in neuromuscular diseases. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am. 2012 Aug;23(3):675-687.

Last reviewed May 2018 by Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM
Last Updated: 12/31/2018

Health References
Health Conditions
Therapeutic Centers

Copyright � 1999-2007
ehc.com; All rights reserved.
Terms & Conditions of Use
Privacy Statement
Medical Center of Independence
17203 E. 23rd St.
Independence,� MO� 64057
Telephone: (816) 478-5000