Contractures in people with cerebral palsy

Permanently stiff joints (contractures) develop in people with cerebral palsy when the muscles surrounding the joints do not relax. The tight muscles permanently bend the joint, resulting in difficulty straightening the affected limb. Without treatment, over time it may become impossible to move the joint.

Contractures usually affect the joints in the hip, knee, ankle, elbow, and wrist. Hip contractures usually occur after infancy. Increased muscle tone (spasticity) is the main problem in infants and young children.

People with cerebral palsy are prone to developing contractures because their muscles:

  • Have too much muscle tone (hypertonia).
  • Do not grow at the same rate as their bones.
  • Become weak if they are not used.

Last Updated: October 14, 2008

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