Range of motion exercises are used to increase the distance between the position where a muscle or joint is flexed and where it is extended. These exercises are either done by individuals, or with the help of a caregiver, such as a physical therapist. For healthy people as well as for patients, range of motion is an important component of physical fitness.
Range of Motion
The term 'range of motion' is a somewhat technical term. For example, it is used by physical therapists to record the progress of their patients as they regain more and more ability to use a given muscle group or joint. Range of motion is also frequently talked about in the weightlifting community and among personal trainers. Namely, increasing range of motion is not only good on a clinical level, but also on a personal fitness level.
Measuring Range of Motion
Whether it is a physical therapist or a personal trainer who is testing someone's range of motion, it is done in two separate ways. You can either test 'passive' range of motion, in which the therapist or the trainer manipulates the person's body in order to see how far the person can go between the flexed and extended positions, or 'active' range of motion. In an 'active' range of motion test, the person must move the muscle or joint themselves.
The 'active' range of motion test results in a lower range of motion score, but provides feedback to the trainer or therapist about what the person can do on his or her own in terms of movement. Both types of measurements are important for assessment.
Range of Motion Exercises to Try
Flexibility exercises can improve range of motion in joints as well as in muscle groups. Pilates is another great way to reduce joint pain. Of course, if you think that you need some advice about your muscles or joints, a physical therapist or personal trainer can help you measure your range of motion and decide what you need to work on.
Whether you are working with a physical therapist or with a personal trainer, if she or he has told you that your range of motion should be increased in order to improve your physical abilities, he or she will show you a host of range of motion exercises. These exercises, if done properly and with the frequency that your trainer or therapist advises, will help you improve your range of motion over time. Some basic exercises to improve range of motion can be helpful for those who suspect their range of motion is not ideal, but who have not consulted a therapist or trainer.
This exercise is a pleasant one for anyone who uses a computer extensively or who uses their arms for other repetitive motions.
- Begin by sitting upright in a chair with your arms resting on your lap.
- Place your palms facing towards the ceiling and slowly begin to move your fingers.
- Fold your fingers in to your palms and then unfold them.
- Fold your thumbs into your palms and then unfold them.
- Repeat this movement several times, while making slight movements with your wrists as well.
- After warming up your hands and wrists in this way, bend your arm at the elbow so that your hands are to the right and left of your face; repeat the hand and wrist movements here.
- Next, keeping your hands and wrists steady, make circles in the air with first one elbow and then the other.
- Straighten your elbows and bring your hands up towards the ceiling and repeat the hand and wrist movements here.
Bring your hands back to your lap and enjoy the feeling in your arms!
This range of motion activity is a great way to take a break while sitting at your desk. Exercises to improve range of motion are not only useful for patients who have suffered an injury or who are otherwise physically limited. In some cases, exercises to improve range of motion are most important for generally healthy people who might sometimes overuse a certain muscle group or joint, such as people who spend an entire day typing or an afternoon splitting wood or shoveling snow.