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Lack of Movement

Common Causes of Lack of Movement

When an orthopedist or other physician discusses lack of movement, they can generally be referring to one of two problems: one or more joints which are unable to move as a direct result of injury, trauma, or disease; or a joint’s inability to move following prolonged treatment of an injury or disease, where the joint may have been kept immobile for a long duration of time. In such cases, the joint may become “frozen,” unable to achieve any real level of motion without therapy or other progressive treatment. In those cases, the physician will usually prescribe a combination of range of motion exercises to be performed independently by the patient, as well as professional physical therapy, and may also include treatment with hot and cold compresses, whirlpool baths, or muscle relaxants and other medications.

In cases where there is lack of movement in a joint due to injury or disease, your physician will, in most cases, treat the underling condition first, and then often prescribe a course of therapy following that initial course of treatment. For example, in a joint which is unable to move due to a stress or impact fracture, the physician will employ treatment modalities to address and correct the fracture first. Once that course of treatment has been satisfactorily treated, the physician will turn his or her attention to treating any resultant lack of motion in the affected joint. Usually this involves a series of range of motion exercises, as well as some physical therapy. The amount of physical therapy will generally depend on the joint or bone injured, as well as the health and age of the patient.

Sometimes, the joint is injured beyond repair. In those instances, joint replacement is a viable option for most injuries. Today, surgical techniques allow for the replacement of most of the major joints of the body. Physical therapy is prescribed following surgery to allow the patient to resume normal activities.

Certain areas of the body which are not candidates for joint replacement therapy - for instance, the wrist or the spine – can also be treated surgically, through a procedure known as “fusion.” In this procedure, the joint surfaces are joined, or fused, permanently to each other to prevent painful friction and, in the case of the spine specifically, potentially damaging swelling, during movement and use.


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