Range of motion is an essential outcome measure used for several purposes. The term range of motion (ROM) refers to how far the joint can move, measured in degrees which then can be categorized as either normal, limited, or excessive. Each joint in our bodies can move in specific directions and angle to serve our purposes. For example; in order to walk, the joints of our lower limbs need to be moved at certain directions and angles respectively to achieve a perfect balanced gait. If a part of the lower limb’s joint is injured, the pain will limit the movement and hence will cause an abnormal gait.

Basically, the measurement of ROM is important for therapists to:

  • determine the source of injury (diagnosis)
  • determine the stage or severity of an injury
  • estimate on how long it would take to heal (prognosis)
  • act as a feedback to determine the effectiveness of the treatment program
  • track the progression of the patient

There are five styles of ROM measurement namely active, active assisted, active resisted, passive and overpressure. Depending on the results, they provide insights on which structures are compromised and better understanding about the pain quality as well as determining the suitable exercise program. The therapist is responsible in giving the correct and clear instructions during the testing and explaining the result after that.

ROM is measured by using a tool known as goniometer. Placing the tool on the joint, the patient then will be asked to perform the desired movement as far as they could and the end range will be recorded. Nowadays digital goniometer has been invented to make the measurement easier with improved accuracy which makes the measurement of ROM easier.

It is important to note that the measurement of ROM alone is usually not sufficient to draw a solid conclusion on the source of the problem. The interpretation of results have to be analysed and explained carefully to the patients. Other tests such as manual muscle testing (MMT) and muscle length test are usually incorporated along during the assessment. Be sure to speak to your assessor to understand the procedures further and discuss the results together. A good communication with each other makes the experience better.