Contracture is a medical condition that nursing home residents may develop if they are neglected. In this article, we’ll define the term “contracture” and explain how it relates to nursing home abuse. 

Key Takeaways

  • Contracture is a permanent tightening of tissues that prevents normal movement
  • Contracture happens when a person’s movement is limited for prolonged periods of time
  • Contracture can be caused by inactivity, scarring, stroke, inflammatory diseases, and more
  • Treatments for contracture include physical therapy, splints, medication, and surgery
  • Nursing homes have a duty to prevent their patients from developing contracture
  • If a nursing home resident develops contracture, it may be a case of nursing home abuse

What Is Contracture?

Contracture is a permanent tightening of tissues including the muscles, tendons, and skin, causing the joints to shorten and stiffen and preventing normal movement.

Symptoms of Contracture

Contracture is defined by a limited range of motion. Signs of contracture include difficulty with any of the following:

  • Moving the hands
  • Stretching the legs
  • Extending a part of the body
  • Straightening the fingers

People suffering with contracture may also experience pain. 

Causes of Contractures

Contracture is typically caused when a person’s ability to move is limited for prolonged periods of time. This can be the result of a number of things including:

  • Inactivity
  • Scarring from an injury or burn
  • Severe osteoarthritis (OA) or rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
  • Stroke
  • Paralysis
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Cerebral palsy (CP)
  • Central nervous system diseases including polio, multiple sclerosis (MS), or Parkinson’s disease
  • Inflammatory diseases

Treatment for Contracture

The most common treatments for contracture are physical therapy and occupational therapy. Other possible treatments include:

  • Wearing a cast or a splint to stretch the tissues near the problem area
  • Using a continuous passive motion (CPM) machine to move the affected body part
  • Taking medication to reduce inflammation and pain
  • Using botulinum toxin (Botox) to reduce tension and minimize spasms
  • Having surgery to lengthen muscles or repair ligaments, tendons, or bones damaged in an accident

Without treatment, people suffering from contracture may never recover their normal range of motion, leading to challenges with activities of daily living

Contracture and Nursing Home Abuse

When older adults living in nursing homes do not get enough exercise or movement, they can have a reduced range of motion and develop contracture. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for nursing home patients to not have adequate movement. Staff should help residents do range of motion exercises, but a failure to do so can lead to contracture. If not treated early, contracture can lead to a nursing home patient struggling with activities such as bathing, grooming, dressing, and eating.

Nursing homes have a duty to prevent contracture through proper evaluation, exercise, splints, and/or therapy. Failing to do so is neglectful and constitutes nursing home abuse. 

If you or a loved one have developed contractures while residing in a nursing home, you may be eligible for compensation for your pain and suffering. It is recommended that you speak to an experienced nursing home abuse attorney to help you build a legal case.

Featured Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect Lawyers

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