Arthrogryposis (ar-throw-grih-POE-sis) is when children have stiffness and loss
of motion in more than one joint. Babies are born with arthrogryposis, and it is usually
permanent. But medical experts can help kids get the best range of motion their stiff
joints will allow.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Arthrogryposis?
The joint stiffness that happens with arthrogryposis is called contracture
(kun-TRAK-cher). It means the joint can't move the way it should. Joints may stay
straight and not bend, or they may stay bent and a child can't straighten them.
Some contractures are mild. Others can be severe. Children may have:
very thin or bony-looking arms and legs
Some children have problems in most of their joints. They may have stiff shoulders,
elbows, hands, hips, knees, and feet. Some kids have only a few stiff joints.
When a child has contracture in just one joint (such as clubfoot),
it's not usually arthrogryposis.
What Causes Arthrogryposis?
Experts don't always know why children have arthrogryposis. It could be something
that stops the muscles and joints from developing as they should. Sometimes it's because
of another condition, like a disease of the nerves or muscles. Or it might happen
because a fetus doesn't move much during pregnancy. This can affect the way the baby's
muscles and nerves develop.
With some babies, there's a genetic
reason for arthrogryposis. If doctors tell you that your child's condition is genetic,
ask if your family should see a genetic
How Is Arthrogryposis Diagnosed?
When a baby is born with more than one contracture, doctors will check the baby's
nerves and muscles. They may order blood tests or imaging tests like X-rays.
Doctors sometimes know that a baby has arthrogryposis before birth. That's because
it can show up on a prenatal
Most of the time, doctors can diagnose the problem and plan treatment based on
a physical exam and routine tests. Doctors may also need to do tests like these:
at-home exercises and stretching to increase strength and flexibility
surgery to reposition bones or move tendons (the cords that connect muscles to
What Can I Expect?
Therapy helps kids do the most they can as they grow. Your care team will give
you exercises to do with your child at home. It takes time for a child's abilities
to improve. Be patient and offer your support to older kids. Parents play a big part
in the treatment of arthrogryposis.
Many kids can do things on their own and grow up to be independent. Others need
more help. Even when arthrogryposis limits physical abilities, kids usually can think
and learn just as well as other kids do.
How Can I Help My Child?
Focus on the things your child can do.
Encourage your child to try new things.
Help your child be as active as possible.
Give your child plenty of ways to learn and use all his or her abilities.