What are Range of Motion Exercises?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2019
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Range of motion exercises are specially designed exercise routines that are used to help restore and maintain flexibility in the joints. Exercises of this type are often employed as part of rehabilitation after surgery, and as a means of keeping conditions such as arthritis in check. While there are some range of motion exercises that can be performed without supervision, many are intended to be performed under the direction of a physical therapist or helper.

There are two basic classifications for range of motion exercises. One group or class is known as passive range of motion. Exercises in this group are always conducted with the aide or a helper. Essentially, the helper manages all the movements for the patient, slowly working the joints so that stiffness cannot settle into the area. A good example of the application of passive exercises would be the first few days of recovery after having surgery on one or more joints.

Active range of motion exercises involve the active participation of the patient. Rather then relying on a helper to control movement during each exercise, the patient is responsible for performing the exercises and assessing the motion range during each repetition. This group of exercises is normally employed as part of an ongoing maintenance program, rather than recovery from some sort of physical trauma to the joints.


Different range of motion exercises work on each area of the body to help restore and maintain flexibility. There are arthritis exercises that are ideal for anyone suffering with stiffness in the wrists, hands, and elbows. Other exercises are designed to help patients recover from surgery; this would include special knee exercises for anyone who has undergone knee replacement surgery. Shoulder exercises exist that help to relax muscles while making it possible to enjoy a broader range of motion with the arms, as well as healthy back exercises that make it possible to bend at the waist and move the upper torso with a minimum of pain.

With all types of range of motion exercises, it is important to seek professional help before selecting the specific exercises. A doctor along with a trained physical therapist can evaluate the condition of the patient and design an exercise program that will yield positive results while minimizing the chances of causing further damage to the joints. It is not unusual for the first several sessions to be conducted under the watchful eye of the therapist. Once the patient has a solid concept of how to do each exercise in the sequence, and what to look for in the way of discomfort, joint pain, or swelling, the therapist may encourage the patient to perform the exercises a certain number of times per week at home, rather than reporting to a rehabilitation center for each workout.



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Post 1

Range of motion exercises are so good to help restore movement. They are very good for people who have had strokes, since they may have been paralyzed on one side, and unable to move their limbs very much. These exercises can really help restore function so people can return to a more normal life.

These exercises are also beneficial for people who are taking martial arts classes, for instance, so they can improve their flexibility and strength.

Range of motion exercises are as beneficial for the healthy as they are for those who are doing rehab work after a stroke or because of arthritis.

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