What is the Range of
Motion and its importance
Range of motion (RoM) of a joint is the ability of the joint to move at a given distance and in a specific direction (i.e. flexion or extension) till its full potential and it is directly connected to joint flexibility. Ensuring good RoM and flexibility is considered crucial to a good body functionality and mobility.
Each joint can move within a specific range with the support of bones, ligaments, muscles and tendons. Normal RoM reference values for each joint have been defined in bibliography and are widely used in order to assess the extent of the impairment of a joint’s RoM. Ensuring a good range of motion, the risk of injury decreases as our joints move easily and comfortably.
Two are the main types of RoM: active and passive. Active range of motion is when the person moves the joint by themselves, while passive is when a third person causes the movement of the joint.
When experiencing a limited RoM in a joint, muscle imbalance and wrong body alignment may occur. Due to the limited movement of that specific joint, we unconsciously place more stress on other joints or muscles, which increases the risk of injury and pain. Experiencing limited RoM in young ages significantly affects the physical development of the body, which is still in process, as it might change the centre of mass of the body. Moreover, having full RoM of all joints in athletes is considered crucial for their performance and at the same time reduces the risk of injuries. Nevertheless, no matter our group age or whether we are athletes or not, when experiencing limited RoM, our quality of life is compromised in terms of conformity, independence and production.
In order to recover from a limited RoM or even prevent it, physical therapists introduce their patients to stretching programs which increase flexibility of the joint. Studies have shown that, when achieving full range of motion in joints through motion exercises, multiple benefits arise, as:
achieving better joint strength and flexibility
better muscle flexibility and elasticity
better muscle strengthening