Skip navigation

Contracture deformity

A contracture develops when the normally stretchy (elastic) tissues are replaced by nonstretchy (inelastic) fiber-like tissue. This tissue makes it hard to stretch the area and prevents normal movement.

Contractures mostly occur in the skin, the tissues underneath, and the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joint areas. They affect range of motion and function in a certain body part. There is usually also pain.

Causes

Contracture can be caused by any of the following:

Home Care

Follow your health care provider's instructions for treating contracture at home. Treatments may include: 

  • Doing exercises and stretches
  • Using braces and splints

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if:

  • A contracture seems to be developing.
  • You notice a decreased ability to move a joint.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Depending on the cause and type of contracture, you may need tests such as an x-ray.

Physical therapy, medicines, orthopedic braces, or surgery may be helpful for some types of contractures.

Alternative Names

Deformity - contracture

References

Campbell M, Dudek N, Trudel G. Joint contractures. In: Frontera WR, Silver JK, Rizzo TD Jr., eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2014:chap 126.

Skalsky AJ, McDonald CM. Prevention and management of limb contractures in neuromuscular diseases. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am. 2012;23:675-687.

Tufaro PA, Bondoc SL. Therapist's movement of the burned hand. In: Skirven TM, Osterman AL, Fedorczyk J, Amadio P, eds. Rehabilitation of the Hand and Upper Extremity. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2011:chap 26.

Update Date: 9/8/2014

Updated by: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

A.D.A.M Quality Logo

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 1997-2014, A.D.A.M., Inc. Duplication for commercial use must be authorized in writing by ADAM Health Solutions.

A.D.A.M Logo