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Contracture Prevention after Spinal Cord Injury

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 2, 2022.

A contracture is a shortening of muscles, tendons, or ligaments after a spinal cord injury (SCI). Contractures limit movement of a joint, such as your wrist, elbow, shoulder, or ankle. Contractures can start to develop as soon as 1 week after your SCI. Contractures are caused by nerve damage or spasticity.


Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

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

Serial casting:

Serial casting is used to help your joints extend. A cast is applied over a joint that is starting to contract. The cast will be applied, removed, and reapplied every 3 to 5 days, over a period of several weeks. Each time the cast is reapplied, your joint will be extended further. The goal is for the joint to be extended over time until it returns to the correct length.

Prevent a contracture:

  • You may need a splint or other device to hold your limb in the correct position.
  • Healthcare providers will teach you how to position your body to help prevent a contracture. They will also show you ways to help control spasticity.
  • Range of motion (ROM) exercises help keep your joints flexible to prevent a contracture. You may need to have someone help you do the exercises. Ask which ROM exercises are best and how often you should do them.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a joint that is beginning to contract.
  • You have trouble doing your ROM exercises.
  • You have problems with spasticity.
  • You have redness, a blister, or an open sore.
  • You have pain, swelling, or burning in your limb.
  • Your fingers or toes are unusually numb or pale.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

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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.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.