Trauma Survivors Network - provided by ATS

Survive. Connect. Rebuild.

A Program of the ATS

Range of Motion

Range-of-Motion Exercises: Range of motion commonly becomes restricted after a stroke or prolonged bed rest. Restricted range of motion can cause pain, interfere with a person's ability to function, and increase the risk of skin being worn away (skin breakdown) and pressure sores. Range of motion typically decreases as people age, although this decrease does not usually prevent healthy older people from being able to care for themselves.

Before beginning therapy, the physical therapist evaluates range of motion with an instrument called a goniometer, which measures the largest angle a joint can move through. The therapist also determines whether restricted motion results from tight muscles or from tight ligaments and tendons. If tight muscles are the cause, a joint may be stretched more vigorously. If tight ligaments or tendons are the cause, gentle stretching is attempted, but surgery is sometimes needed before progress can be made with range-of-motion exercises. Stretching is usually most effective and least painful when tissues are warmed up. Thus, therapists may apply heat first.

There are three types of range of motion exercises:

Active exercise: This type is for people who can exercise a muscle or joint without help. They must move their limbs themselves.
Active-assistive exercise: This type is for people who can move their muscles with a little help or who can move their joints but feel pain when they do. People move their limbs themselves, but a therapist helps them do so, by hand or with bands or other equipment.
Passive exercise: This type is for people who cannot actively participate in exercise. No effort is required from them. The therapist moves their limbs