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Our six top ways to improve range of motion

August 3rd, 2022 by
Category: Dr. Eden Donoghue Health Health & Wellbeing Movement

Range of motion is described by how your body moves. It incorporates both joint and muscle movement and is different for each individual. Range of motion can be subdivided into active and passive range of motion. 

  • Active range of motion is when the individual takes their body through a movement with no outside force, such as turning to look over your shoulder while head checking in the car. 
  • Passive range of motion is when an outside force takes you through a movement, which usually indicates an individual’s full range of motion. 

How is range of motion measured?

Some movements used to test range of motion include:

  • Flexion: forward bending movement, such as bringing your chin to your chest.
  • Extension: backward bending movement, such as lifting your chin up into the air.
  • Rotation: a twisting/turning motion, such as looking over your shoulder; like head checking in the car. 
  • Lateral flexion: bending sidewards movement, such as bringing your ear down to your shoulder. 
  • Abduction: moving away from the midline, such as moving your arm away from your body.
  • Adduction: moving towards the midline, such as your arm towards your body.

We measure range of motion in two different ways:

  1. Using benchmarks that are a guide for normal everyday movement, in which we create a percentage of difference to show loss of movement.
  2. Using a goniometer which gives a direct angle of movement achieved (best suited for extremities, such as wrists, knees, etc.) 

What is considered a ‘good’ range of motion?

‘Good’ range of motion will be different for each individual and we must take into consideration age, gender, and joint we are testing for.

Joints such as the shoulder are more mobile and have a greater range of motion than other joints, such as the ankle. Therefore when testing for range of motion we compare side to side, while taking into consideration factors such as:

    • Age: in general terms, the older we get, the more range of motion decreases, and less movement we generally have. 
    • Gender: females are known to have an increase in range of motion compared to males. It is believed the difference comes down to hormone levels, and collagen synthesis has an increasing effect on flexibility. 
    • Job: an individual’s job plays a large impact on their range of motion, and needs to be taken into consideration when looking at a ‘good’ range. 

While there are things that naturally change a person’s range of motion, there is a lot that can be done to build range of motion back up.

Why is range of motion important?

Range of motion is responsible for the movement and mobility across the whole body. When we see a decrease or loss in range of motion, we often find it can cause pain or irritation, limiting an individual’s ability to complete everyday tasks, leading to more dysfunction and pain.

What causes decreased/limited range of motion?

Many things can cause a decrease to your range of motion such as age, injury (such as swelling, sprains, strains, dislocations, breaks etc.), lack of movement, ineffective warm up and/or cool down surrounding physical activity, as well as poor posture habits or arthritis/degeneration.

What can you do to improve your range of motion?

1. See a Chiropractor

Chiropractors release tension and restriction in your joints (more often spinal joints) through the use of manual or low force adjustments. This helps to allow the joints to move as they are supposed to, while also relieving the tension and stress built up throughout your muscles. 

Depending on what you present with, the results through thorough testing and your end goal will determine how long and the best course of care for you.

2. Warm-up (before exercise)

A gentle and light warm-up should be done before completing your physical activity. This helps to increase blood flow slowly and warms your muscles up to help to avoid injury. 

Dynamic stretching as a warm-up helps to switch on targeted muscles in a way that prepares them for the activity that follows. Examples include leg swings, lunges, heel raises, shoulder rolls, and arm circles. These help to warm up muscles, allowing for better performance during activity.

3. Stretching

Stretching restricted or tight muscles can help reduce tension and increase your range of motion. The area of the problem will determine which muscles you may need to stretch. Seeking out a healthcare practitioner will help create specific stretches for you, your body, and your end goal.

Static stretching should be done at the end of activity as a cool down (which is when your muscles are already warm). Each stretch should be held for 30 seconds with rest in-between.

An example of a static stretch includes:

Hamstring stretch: 

    • One of the more common stretches is for your hamstrings. 
    • To complete: sitting on the ground with your legs straight out in front of you. Bending forward from your tummy/ chest, reaching forward with your hands towards your toes until you feel a stretch at the back of your legs.
    • Hold for 30 seconds, then sit back up and rest for 30 seconds. Complete 2 more times. 

4. Push movements to your limit

During exercise, you should push your body to strive to achieve better. When pushing yourself, you don’t want to overdo it and cause injury, such as strain, sprain or tears, but you do want to push yourself past comfortable. 

This allows your body to create a new normal, which increases range of motion and flexibility.

Example:

Squatting: on low weight or none at all, pushing your squat below parallel (thighs flat) will increase your muscle’s capability and increase its range of motion. Bringing this change in for 1 set every time you complete your activity will help to increase and build your range of motion.  

5. Massage or deep tissue massage

Tension can build up in your muscles causing restrictions or tightness, which can be released through the use of massage. This helps to create more movement in your muscle, more flexibility, and more range of motion. 

Going to see a trained massage therapist who can isolate the particular parts of the muscles that are causing the most tension can really help to increase muscle movement and de-stressed the muscle, helping to increase your range of motion.

6. Movement

Movement plays a large role in everyday function and well-being, but also in your joints and muscles. The more we move, the more your muscles and joints move, helping to create better mobility and help to stop your range of motion from decreasing. 

A 15-30 minute brisk walk a day helps to relax your muscles, increase blood flow (helping with healing), and starts to strengthen and create more range of motion in your body. 

Often we sit for a large portion of the day and incorporating a 15-30top-ways-to-help-improve-range-of-motion minute brisk walk each day can help to change the time spent sitting and can have a large impact on overall health and wellbeing, including range of motion.

 

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