How GVHD affects the Joints, Fascia and Muscles

Chronic GVHD often affects the joints, connective tissue under the skin called fascia and/or muscles. 

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Chronic GVHD sometimes affects the joints, fascia and muscles. (The fascia is connective tissue under the skin that attaches to and stabilizes muscles and other internal organs)


Symptoms may include:

  • joint stiffness or pain
  • reduced range of motion (difficulty fully extending or flexing arms, feet, wrists or finger joints)
  • contractures (joints remain in a fixed, flexed position)
  • tight muscles or tendons
  • muscle cramps or spasms
  • muscle weakness
  • tightening of tissue under the skin (the fascia) which can look like cellulite


Some symptoms can be relieved by deep tissue massage or stretching exercises under the supervision of a physical therapist.

An occupational therapist can create special splints or casts to help stretch muscles, and recommend assistive devices to make it easier to perform daily activities like reaching items, dressing and toileting.

Watch this video about exercises and assistive devices that can help GVHD patients.  Click here to read the transcript and download the slides.

(To view this page in Spanish click here.)

Next page: Eyes and Chronic GVHD

Updated June 2024