What are the causes and treatment options for multiple joint contractures?

Symptom Database

Multiple joint contractures refer to a condition where two or more joints in the body become permanently fixed in a bent or flexed position. This can significantly limit a person’s range of motion and cause discomfort or pain. In this article, we will explore the causes of multiple joint contractures, available treatment options, and ways to prevent and manage this condition.

Causes of Multiple Joint Contractures

Multiple joint contractures can have various underlying causes. Some common factors that contribute to the development of joint contractures include:

  • Neurological conditions: Certain neurological disorders, such as cerebral palsy or stroke, can lead to muscle weakness or spasticity, resulting in joint contractures.
  • Connective tissue disorders: Conditions like Ehlers-Danlos syndrome or Marfan syndrome can affect the elasticity of connective tissues, leading to joint contractures.
  • Joint inflammation: Chronic inflammation in the joints, such as in rheumatoid arthritis, can cause joint contractures over time.
  • Immobilization: Prolonged immobilization of a joint due to injury, surgery, or prolonged bed rest can result in contractures.

Treatment Options for Multiple Joint Contractures

While multiple joint contractures can be challenging to treat, there are several options available to improve mobility and manage the condition. The choice of treatment depends on the underlying cause, severity of contractures, and individual needs. Some common treatment options include:

Physical Therapy and Exercises

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in managing joint contractures. A skilled therapist can design a personalized exercise program to stretch and strengthen the affected muscles and joints. These exercises aim to improve flexibility, increase range of motion, and prevent further contractures. Examples of contracture exercises include:

  • Passive stretching: Gentle stretching of the affected joint with the help of a therapist or assistive devices.
  • Active range of motion exercises: Performing controlled movements of the joint independently or with minimal assistance.
  • Strengthening exercises: Targeting the muscles surrounding the affected joint to provide stability and support.

Joint Mobilization and Manipulation

In some cases, joint mobilization techniques or manual manipulation by a trained healthcare professional may be necessary to break up adhesions and improve joint mobility. This can help reduce contractures and restore normal joint function.

Assistive Devices

Assistive devices such as splints, braces, or orthotics can be used to support the affected joints and maintain proper alignment. These devices help prevent further contractures and provide stability during daily activities.


In cases where joint contractures are caused by underlying inflammatory conditions, medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) may be prescribed to reduce inflammation and manage symptoms.

Surgical Intervention

In severe cases of multiple joint contractures that do not respond to conservative treatments, surgical intervention may be considered. Surgical procedures aim to release tight tissues, lengthen tendons, or correct joint deformities to improve joint mobility.

Prevention and Management of Joint Contractures

While it may not always be possible to prevent joint contractures, certain measures can help reduce the risk and manage the condition effectively:

  • Regular exercise: Engaging in regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight can help keep joints flexible and prevent contractures.
  • Proper positioning: Maintaining correct body alignment and avoiding prolonged immobilization can help prevent joint stiffness and contractures.
  • Stretching and range of motion exercises: Performing regular stretching and range of motion exercises can help maintain joint flexibility and prevent contractures.
  • Early intervention: Seeking prompt medical attention for any joint pain, swelling, or stiffness can help identify and address potential contractures early on.

Complications of Joint Contractures

If left untreated, multiple joint contractures can lead to several complications, including:

  • Decreased quality of life: Joint contractures can significantly impact a person’s ability to perform daily activities, leading to a decreased quality of life.
  • Functional limitations: Limited joint mobility can restrict a person’s ability to move, walk, or perform tasks independently.
  • Secondary musculoskeletal problems: Compensatory movements due to contractures can put additional stress on other joints and muscles, leading to pain and dysfunction.
  • Skin breakdown: Fixed joint positions can cause pressure ulcers or skin breakdown in the affected areas.

In conclusion, multiple joint contractures can be caused by various factors, including neurological conditions, connective tissue disorders, joint inflammation, or immobilization. Treatment options range from physical therapy and exercises to surgical intervention, depending on the severity and underlying cause. Preventive measures and early intervention play a crucial role in managing joint contractures and preventing complications. By understanding the causes, treatment options, and preventive strategies, individuals with multiple joint contractures can take proactive steps towards improving their mobility and overall well-being.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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