What is Range of Motion?
Range of motion is the measurement of how far a joint can move through all of its normal movements. This range is measured in degrees by an instrument called a goniometer. Range of motion can be measured at any mobile joint in the body. For example, the range of motion at the elbow carries the forearm through a half-circle and is equal to 180 degrees.
There are a variety of reasons that a specific joint or body part cannot move throughout its normal range of motion. Mechanical problems, such as swelling of tissue around the joint, stiffness of the muscles or pain can limit normal range of motion. Conditions in children, such as cerebral palsy may cause an increase in muscle tone throughout the body which may make it difficult to achieve full range of motion. The inability to move, effect of gravity and the presence of involuntary muscle contraction can all influence a child’s ability to move through their whole range of motion at a joint.
Natural course of condition
Over time, joints that are limited in range of motion and are not stretched can produce contracture deformities. This can cause permanent inability to move the joint beyond a certain point. With proper stretching techniques and, if needed, casting and electric stimulation, functional range of motion can be achieved.
Physical and occupational therapists have an important role in preserving, and in some cases, regaining range of motion. Stretching can often preserve functional range of motion. Incorporating stretches into fun activities, like playing “so big” can help your child stretch in an enjoyable way for them. Stretching is also most beneficial when a joint or muscle is warmed up, like after bath time or walking home from school. Helpful tips like playing music while stretching can provide a soothing environment and aid in relaxation of the muscles which will help achieve more movement at the joint stretched.
Our approach at North Shore Pediatric Therapy
During our initial evaluation, the physical or occupational therapist can take a measurement of your child’s range of motion at any joint that may be affected. Once this is measured, a treatment plan is put into place to achieve the highest range of motion possible to make your child highly functional. A home exercise program will be put into place and the therapist will educate parents on the proper way to stretch their child at home to achieve the highest results possible.