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This article refers to orthopedic contractures, i.e., permanent shortening of muscles, tendons, and/or ligaments. For short-term contraction of muscles, including the normal action and function of muscles, see Muscle contraction. For non-orthopedic types of contractures, see the "See Also" section below.
Classification and external resources
ICD-10 M24.5, M62.4, M67.1, M72.0, T79.6
ICD-9 718.4, 727.81, 728.6, 958.6
MedlinePlus 003185
MeSH D003286

A muscle contracture is a permanent shortening of a muscle[1] or joint.[2] It is usually in response to prolonged hypertonic spasticity in a concentrated muscle area, such as is seen in the tightest muscles of people with conditions like spastic cerebral palsy.

Contractures are essentially muscles or tendons that have remained too tight for too long, thus becoming shorter. Once they occur they cannot be stretched or exercised away; they must be released with orthopedic surgery. Most of the physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other exercise regimens targeted towards people with spasticity focuses on trying to prevent contractures from happening in the first place.

Contractures can also be due to ischemia, as in Volkmann's contracture.

Excessive matrix metalloproteinase and myofibroblast accumulation in the wound margins can result in contracture.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "contracture" at Dorland's Medical Dictionary
  2. ^ Clavet H, Hébert PC, Fergusson D, Doucette S, Trudel G (March 2008). "Joint contracture following prolonged stay in the intensive care unit". CMAJ 178 (6): 691–7. doi:10.1503/cmaj.071056. PMC 2263098. PMID 18332384.