A contracture is when the connective tissues in a joint like the ankle or the knee shorten causing stiffening and rigidity. People can lose their range of motion, there is pain and in worse cases, it can lead to deformity. Contracture can happen for a variety of reasons including inactivity such as seen in patients who have had long hospital stays, scarring from a burn or injury, people with rheumatoid arthritis and severe osteoarthritis, stroke sufferers, muscular dystrophy, central nervous system diseases, cerebral palsy and inflammatory diseases.

Reversing contracture is possible but it can take months or even years and needs to be started before the joint is fully immobilized. Sometimes surgery is necessary and part of the treatment is the use of braces or splints known as orthotics to help keep the muscles and joints stretched and flexible. In the case of a knee injury, a patient would wear a knee contracture brace, in the case of ankle or foot injury they would wear a foot contracture boot.

Here is a look at the two treatment braces

Foot contracture boot

A foot contracture boot can be used for several reasons including to help with ulcers, hip rotation, foot drop and of course ankle and foot contractures. It is a brace you wear though exact details can vary between different makers it is made from foam, can come with or without a sole, suspends the heel, reduces pressure, should be easy to put on and take off, and has an anti-rotation bar. They come in various sizes in terms or calf circumference as well as foot circumference.

Knee contracture brace

A knee contracture brace has much in common with the boot. It is designed to help with mild to moderate shortening contractures of the knee. It is also made from foam but comes in various styles and sizes. Some have knee pads and some do not and they promote gentle stretching. They have hinge settings to control the range of motion the patient has and you can change the degree of flexion without having to remove the brace. Sizing takes into account thigh and calf circumferences.

Assessing and other treatment options

Your doctor will talk with you about your medical history, ask about symptoms and perform a medical exam as well as some other medical tests. Once the condition is diagnosed as well as suggesting a type of brace, there are other treatments he or she might suggest.

  • Physical therapy – helps to strengthen your muscles and improve the range of motion you have. You need to keep attending and do the home exercise as instructed though to get the full benefit.
  • Surgery – A ligament or tendon may need repairing, or muscles may need lengthening.
  • Medication – To help manage the pain and inflammation a medication is likely to be prescribed.

Delaying treatment and prevention

This can have a real impact on your quality of life. Delaying seeing a doctor means longer treatment as the stiffening gets worse. Wear the foot contracture boot or knee contracture brace when you are supposed to. To prevent issues make sure regular exercise is a part of your lifestyle and be careful with heavy lifting.