Purpose: To examine the techniques used for the treatment of contracture in the context of current scientific knowledge of muscle.
Method: Synthesis of data available from MEDLINE, RECAL, EMBASE, the Cochrane Library and relevant texts.
Results: The development of contractures through immobilisation, muscle weakness and spasticity is described. The effects of passive stretching, continuous passive movement, serial plastering, splinting, electrical stimulation, botulinum injections and surgical tenotomies in the treatment of contractures in persons with neurological and orthopaedic conditions are identified. The strengths and weaknesses of these modalities are discussed.
Conclusion: Predisposing factors persist after treatment of contractures thus for treatment to be effective long-term management programmes need to be developed. New treatment techniques, used in series or combined, offer the prospect of improved management of contracture. Scientific and clinical research is needed to investigate the effect of contracture treatment.