Range of Motion - Types of Range of Motion Exercises

Range of motion, also called ROM, is the distance or amount of freedom your joint can be moved in a certain direction. Range of motion is measured in angle degrees (e.g. shoulder flexion - 180o) using a goniometer.

Range of motion testing is an integral part in any physical therapy examination. Generally, before your treatment begins, your physical therapist will measure your range of motion.

Usually, physical therapy ROM measurements are done on the specific part/s involved in your condition. For example, if you have frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis), your physical therapist will perform measurements of all your shoulder movements. In some cases, when your PT sees other joint involvement, he or she will measure it, as well.

During your physical examination, when your PT sees that you have limited motion, he or she will also determine if the cause is muscle tightness, pain, or tightness of ligaments or tendons.

What are the different types of Range of Motion Exercises?

Categorically, there are three main types of range of motion exercises. They are:

  • Passive Range of Motion

    In passive range of motion exercise, the physical therapist is the one moving the joint. No active movement is coming from the patient. This is usually done to prevent stiffness of the joint from being inactive or paralyzed.

    Also, passive range of motion can be done in conjunction with passive stretching exercises. When we say passive stretching, the therapist or another person stretches the patient's/client's soft tissues.

    See below for a video clip on how to perform passive range of motion on a subject or client. Passive ROM presented on the video does not include all of the joint motions.

  • Video Source: Jamie's Teaching Channel (2012, July 27). Passive Range of Motion [Video File]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGCtC3PclFU

  • Active-assistive Range of Motion Exercises

    This type of range of motion exercise uses some assistance coming from the physical therapist. The patient can move his or her limb but cannot complete full range of motion because of weakness or pain.

    This is done to slowly to increase the strength of the patient's specific muscle.

  • Active Range of Motion Exercises

    All movements are performed by the patient in active range of motion exercises. The patient can perform the exercises without manual assistance from the therapist. The physical therapist may continually provide verbal cues on how to perform the exercises properly.

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