Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Understanding and Treating Contractures

Contracture (also known as joint or muscle contracture) is the shortening of a muscle or tendon which results in moderate to severe restricted range of motion (ROM.) It is often found in the ankle-foot, hip, knee, elbow, and wrist- hand-finger areas of the body. A contracture can develop for many reasons, but the primary causes are stroke and prolonged immobilization such as bed rest. Stroke victims are particularly vulnerable as attacks are often followed by significant muscle weakness and spastic muscle contractions. Contracture can also be caused by neurological complications, birth defect, deformity, and burn scarring.

The principal symptom of contracture is loss of normal movement which can impede daily activities. It can also be quite painful and cause the skin to breakdown. For these reasons, it is critical to prevent contracture when possible and proactively treat contracture when diagnosed. Thankfully, proper contracture management can significantly improve the afflicted individual’s quality of life.

Contracture treatments vary and depend on the individual’s unique situation. Joint immobilization and stretching can help in some situations. In others, pre-fabricated contracture management devices and physical therapy may be required. Stroke victims can particularly benefit from the use of orthotics such as braces or splints. When selecting a contracture management orthotic, it is important to make sure that the device is both comfortable and user-friendly. Many of today’s devices are engineered so that they can be easily adjusted for a custom fit or disassembled for washing. Soft cushioning and a comfortable fit will help to prevent skin damage, a common complication of contracture treatment. The contracture management device should also offer sturdy hinges that support the full range of motion. In some instances heat therapy can be used in conjunction with a splint or brace as it allows for greater elasticity in the soft tissues. Occasionally surgical intervention is required, but for the majority of patients, contracture management devices are a less invasive and more convenient option. Those with a predisposition towards contractures, such as individuals with palsy, may also benefit from preventative measures such as strategic stretching, muscle engagement, and the use of orthotic devices such as braces or splints.

To find out more about contracture treatment options, speak to your physician or orthopedic specialist/surgeon.

Note: This information is not intended to supplement or replace advice from a medical professional, or to diagnose or treat any condition.

About MMAR Medical Group: MMAR Medical Group Inc. is a supplier of orthopedic medical products including a wide selection of braces and supports. To find a quality hinged knee brace, wrist brace, lumbar brace or other quality brace, please visit www.mmarmedical.com.

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