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Contractor of the pointer finger

What is Joint Contracture?

Joint Contracture occurs when structures inside and outside a joint limit motion of the joint.  Normally, smooth cartilage lines the ends of each bone in a joint and provides an almost frictionless gliding surface.  Around a joint, tendons, ligaments, and joint capsule are also smooth and move against each other freely.  Injury to and around a joint causes inflammation, which leads to the different structures sticking to each other, resulting in stiffness and limited motion.

Symptoms of Joint Contracture

The hallmark of a joint contracture is an inability to normally move the joint, whether bending it or straightening it.  Sometimes the joint is painful.

Burn contractures of the palm and fingers

Common Causes of Joint Contracture

Joint Contracture can be due to fractures, dislocations, and arthritis.  Even seemingly mild injuries like a sprain can cause Joint Contracture.  Specific structural culprits can include tight skin, shortened ligaments, and bony irregularities.  Tough, glue-like adhesions may form after an injury as a result of bleeding within the joint and the body’s own inflammatory response mechanism, which then tethers the joint.  When the articular cartilage within a joint sustains damage from a fracture or dislocation, arthritis can develop with its associated pain and stiffness.

Diagnosis of Joint Contracture

Speaking with you to understand how your injury happened and carefully examining your hand are integral to making the diagnosis and determining appropriate treatment.  X-rays are also helpful to evaluate for possible arthritis or irregular bone anatomy.

Burn contractures of the palm and fingers
Surgery Z-plasty, correction of bum, contracture of palm and fingers.

Treatment Options for Joint Contracture

Occupational therapy is the mainstay of treatment, involving progressive stretching, often with the help of splints.  Over the course of several weeks of therapy the contracture can often be released and improved range of motion restored.  In severe cases, surgical release, often arthroscopically assisted, of structures causing the contracture may be useful in improving motion.


Joint Contracture can be disabling disorder.  Call NYC Hand Surgeon Dr. Pruzansky at 212-249-8700 to schedule an appointment and get your joint moving again.


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