• Barbara Oliveira

How Physical Therapy Can Help with Muscle Contracture & Shortening?


A muscle contracture, also known as a contracture deformity, is a permanent shortening and tightening of muscle fibers that reduces flexibility and makes movement difficult. It is caused when a muscle loses elasticity. If a muscle cannot move and be stretched, the nearby joints also lose mobility and become painful.


Range of motion is one of the most physical characteristics. Muscles prevent long capabilities and maintain mobility. What muscle conditions shorten, on the other hand, generates loss of flexibility and postural flexibilities Whether due to a sedentary lifestyle or genetic inheritance, shortening can be treated with physical therapy.


In sport, athletes with range of motion have an advantage over contrasts. This feature is also popular à But in general, the appearance of myalgia strains. Injuries like this are combined with a sedentary lifestyle, which does not use the body's potential, or physical activities that only strengthen the muscles. With muscle aging, a period naturally linked to musculoskeletal disorders can be aggravated.


Mechanics of Muscle Shortening

When there is no stimulus for the muscles to stretch, the fibers pile up and lose their elasticity. The skin thus also adheres to the muscle's inactive position, which limits the range of movement. The body adapts to this low muscle demand, leading to shortening.


Joints are the most affected regions. Knee and elbow injuries are common due to muscle imbalance. The picture is often registered in athletes and bodybuilders who work isolated parts of the body.


Postural problems are also among the consequences of muscle shortening. This is the case of changes in the length of the iliopsoas muscle (responsible for hip movements), which generates lumbar hyperlordosis. The condition causes pain and reduces mobility and quality of life.


Physical Therapy Treatment of Muscle Shortening

The first step is to make a careful assessment of the shortened muscles. For this, it is necessary to carry out movement tests in each muscle group and check the degree of amplitude. Afterwards, the physical therapist can plan stretching exercises for each shortened region. Among the indicated types are isometric, dynamic or contraction-relaxation stretching, among others.


One of the main techniques currently used is proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF). Through the manual technique, PNF promotes the stimulation of proprioceptors and exteroceptors. The practice increases the demand on the neuromuscular mechanism, integrating stretching and strengthening with neurophysiological principles of successive induction, as well as reciprocal and irradiation innervation and inhibition.


PNF is linked to neurorehabilitation, which involves motor learning and functional retention of activities performed in therapy and under training. Thus, it is possible to follow the developmental progression and perform a biomechanical and behavioral analysis of motor control.


Physical therapy can help decrease the severity of muscle contractures through stretching and soft tissue mobilization to decrease muscle tightness. For maintaining muscle balance, Pilates is one of the most suitable techniques. The method offers strength and endurance, as well as progressive improvement in flexibility and stretching. Breathing and body awareness help to adopt more assertive movements and reduce injuries.