A contracture is the abnormal shortening of muscle or other tissue. It may be caused by muscle spasm, wasting away of tissue and muscle (atrophy), scar formation from injury, chronic disease, or lack of use.
A contracture often develops in a joint affected by arthritis or in a paralyzed limb, and it may make it impossible to move the joint normally. A contracture causes surrounding muscle, tendons, ligaments, and bone to shorten or bend, and it can lead to permanent deformity and disability.
Contractures are treated in many ways, including physical therapy, casts, and surgery.
Last Revised: June 11, 2010
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: John Pope, MD - Pediatrics & Stanford M. Shoor, MD - Rheumatology
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