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A contracture

is limited movement of a joint. You may have pain when you try to move or fully extend the joint. A contracture is usually caused by changes in the skin, muscles, tendons, cartilage, or ligaments that surround the joint.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • Your symptoms do not get better or they get worse, even with treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


depends on the cause of your contracture. You may need any of the following:

  • Physical therapy may be recommended. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain.
  • Heat therapy using ultrasound, liquid wax (paraffin), or water may be done. It can help to relieve pain and stiffness. Heat therapy may be used together with stretching exercises.
  • A support device , such as a brace, cast, or splint, may be used to keep a contracture in a stretched position. The device may be removed every 2 to 3 days so the contracture can be stretched again. The support device will be applied again.
  • Medicines to decrease pain and spasms may be given.
  • Surgery may be done to cut and lengthen tight tendons or ligaments. Joint replacement surgery may also be done.

Prevent a contracture:

  • You may need a splint or other device to hold your limb in the correct position.
  • Regular movement, range of motion, and stretching exercises can help prevent contractures. They can help keep your joints flexible, reduce pain, and improve balance and strength. Ask about the best exercise plan for you.
  • Pain control after an injury or surgery can help you do the range of motion exercises recommended by your healthcare provider. Pain after an injury or surgery may prevent you from regularly moving an affected joint, and lead to a contracture.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.