How to Prevent and Reverse Contractures After A Stroke

Contractures are a common complication that can occur following a stroke. Contractures are defined by stiffening or tightening of the muscles, joints, and tendons. Contractures can occur in any joint or muscle group in the body that is affected by spasticity. The hand, elbow, hip, knee, and ankle are the joints that are most typically impacted by contractures.

In the end, this illness can impair your ability to carry out functional activities such as walking, moving from one surface to another, and doing duties associated with self-care, such as dressing or washing. This article will explore the factors that lead to the development of contractures, as well as the most effective rehabilitation strategies for avoiding or treating the resulting complications.

How to Prevent and Reverse Contractures After A Stroke

Causes of Contractures After a Stroke

Contractures are characterized by an abnormal tightening of the muscles, joints, or connective tissue, which frequently leads to a restricted range of motion. Damage to the brain and the motor pathways linked with it makes it difficult to purposefully activate affected muscles after a stroke. Because of this, voluntary movement in the connected limb is limited, and the amount of active motion that may be performed is reduced. This results in the affected limbs typically having reduced mobility following a stroke.

In addition, stroke frequently results in spasticity, which is defined as an unnatural increase in the tone or contraction of the muscles. Because of the excessive muscle contraction, also known as spasm, the muscles eventually become rigid and contract.

The condition known as spasticity can most easily be explained as a breakdown in communication between the brain and the muscles. After a stroke has caused damage to the motor neurons in the brain, which are responsible for communicating with the affected muscles, these neurons will misfire, which will cause the muscles to spasm in response.

Contractures of the muscles and joints are something that can occur when spasticity is not properly treated. The presence of spasticity in hand after a stroke, for instance, can cause the fingers and wrist to curl inward toward the palm of the hand. This causes the hand to remain in a tightly clenched fist, which over time can lead to a hand contracture as the muscles, tendons, and joints become rigid from the constant contraction.

Rehabilitation After a Stroke

contractures after stroke

Within the first year after their stroke, between 25 and 43 percent of survivors experience spasticity, as reported by the American Stroke Association. When spasticity is not controlled properly, there is an increased risk of developing contractures, which can lead to a wide variety of functional problems. In addition to being uncomfortable, contractures and spasticity can have a detrimental effect on one’s quality of life.

The good news is that spasticity and contractures can both be treated with a wide range of rehabilitation techniques. Participating in persistent, everyday rehabilitation after a stroke can help reverse or avoid the development of contractures, but doing so needs devotion and consistency. Following a stroke, some of the most prevalent treatment options for contractures include the following:

  • Stretching: If you’re having trouble using a splint or a ball to support your hand open, try doing some gentle stretching on the area that’s giving you trouble. Additionally, preventing future injuries can be accomplished by stretching. The spasticity that you are experiencing as a result of your stroke can be treated with the help of certain exercises that you can learn from a physiotherapist.
  • The use of the massed practice, which activates a process known as neuroplasticity and rewires the brain, can be used to reverse the effects of contractures on the body. This can be performed by using practice. Patients who have suffered a stroke can regain their independence and competency with the assistance of neuroplasticity. [S]ome patients have been able to walk again. This is the idea that underpins the practice of massed repetition. This is the

fundamental principle behind the mass practice approach.

  • Neuroplasticity will be activated during the aided exercise, and you will soon be able to perform it on your own.
  • Stimulation by Electric Current: In order to reduce spasticity and tightness, your physiotherapist may utilize an electrical stimulation device on the area that’s been afflicted. When treating contractures, a treatment strategy that combines electrical stimulation with rehabilitative activities yields outstanding results.
  • Your physiotherapist may propose the use of splints and props, sometimes known as orthoses, in order to stretch and open the muscles that are afflicted. Adjustments will be made to the splints so that they properly fit and provide support for the affected portion.
  • Botox is a nerve blocker that can lessen the effects of spasticity and contractures. Even though the effects of Botox are just temporary and tend to wear off over time, it is nevertheless helpful in providing relief until more permanent therapy can be administered.
  • If none of the aforementioned therapies are successful in alleviating the symptoms of contractures, the next available option is typically surgery. In the event that the contracture does not loosen on its own, you might require surgical intervention.

Addressing Contractures After Stroke

contractures after stroke

After a stroke, contractures are a common and potentially life-threatening condition that can affect survivors. The existence of contractures can significantly restrict the range of motion and decrease mobility, both of which can have a detrimental impact on quality of life. Contractures are a common problem, but thankfully there are a number of treatments and preventative measures available.

Stretching, increasing the range of motion, exercising, receiving electrical stimulation, and making use of orthoses or other rehabilitation equipment are all effective treatments that can help decrease or avoid contractures. Maintaining awareness of how you are positioned after a stroke can be an effective method for avoiding the development of contractures during the early stages of rehabilitation. When dealing with severe contractures, it may be required in some instances to resort to Botox or surgical intervention.

In order to obtain positive results, preventing or minimizing the severity of contractures demands dedication and persistence. Your treatment center staff can assist you in formulating a strategy that takes into account your unique requirements and puts you back on the path to recovery.


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