What Is Normal Range of Motion in a Joint?

Generally Accepted Values for Normal Range of Motion (ROM)

Senior woman and therapist work on her knee
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Range of motion (ROM) is a measurement of the distance and direction a joint can move to its full potential. A joint is a location in the body where bones connect. Most of them are constructed to allow movement in predetermined directions. The amount of movement through a normal range of motion is commonly measured in degrees using an instrument called a goniometer.

Each joint (hip, knee, ankle, foot, joints of the feet, joints of the toe, shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand and finger joints) has different ranges of motion for each type of movement it can perform.

There are a few joints that do not support movement such as in the skull.

Common joint movements include flexionextensionabduction, and adduction. Extension is a physical position that decreases the angle between the bones of the limb at a joint. It occurs when muscles contract and bones move the joint into a bent position. The opposite movement, flexion, bends the joint so that the joint angle shortens.

Normal Ranges (by Joint)

Although there is variability among various individuals, the following are generally accepted values for a normal ROM in each individual joint as measured in degrees. Physical therapists and exercise physiologists measure an individual's range of motion and compare it to these normal values.

Hip

  • Flexion 0 to 125 degrees
  • Extension 115 to 0 degrees
  • Hyperextension (straightening beyond normal range) 0 to 15 degrees
  • Abduction (moving away from the central axis of the body) 0 to 45 degrees
  • Adduction (moving towards the central axis of the body) 45 to 0 degrees
  • Lateral rotation (rotation away from the center of the body) 0 to 45 degrees
  • Medial rotation (rotation towards the center of the body) 0 to 45 degrees

Knee

  • Flexion 0 to 130 degrees
  • Extension 120 to 0 degrees

Ankle

  • Plantar flexion (movement downward) 0 to 50 degrees
  • Dorsiflexion (movement upward) 0 to 20 degrees

Foot

  • Inversion (turned inward) 0 to 35 degrees
  • Eversion (turned outward) 0 to 25 degrees

Metatarsophalangeal Joint of the Foot

  • Flexion 0 to 30 degrees
  • Extension 0 to 80 degrees

Interphalangeal Joint of the Toe

  • Flexion 0 to 50 degrees
  • Extension 50 to 0 degrees

Shoulder

  • Flexion 0 to 180 degrees
  • Extension 0 to 50 degrees
  • Abduction 0 to 90 degrees
  • Adduction 90 to 0 degrees
  • Lateral rotation 0 to 90 degrees
  • Medial rotation 0 to 90 degrees

Elbow

  • Flexion 0 to 160 degrees
  • Extension 145 to 0 degrees
  • Pronation (rotation inward) 0 to 90 degrees
  • Supination (rotation outward) 0 to 90 degrees

Wrist

  • Flexion 0 to 90 degrees
  • Extension 0 to 70 degrees
  • Abduction 0 to 25 degrees
  • Adduction 0 to 65 degrees

Metacarpophalangeal (MCP)

  • Abduction 0 to 25 degrees
  • Adduction 20 to 0 degrees
  • Flexion 0 to 90 degrees
  • Extension 0 to 30 degrees

Interphalangeal Proximal (PIP) Joint of the Finger

  • Flexion 0 to 120 degrees
  • Extension 120 to 0 degrees

Interphalangeal Distal (DIP) Joint of the Finger

  • Flexion 0 to 80 degrees
  • Extension 80 to 0 degrees

Metacarpophalangeal Joint of the Thumb

  • Abduction 0 to 50 degrees
  • Adduction 40 to 0 degrees
  • Flexion 0 to 70 degrees
  • Extension 60 to 0 degrees

Interphalangeal Joint of the Thumb

  • Flexion 0 to 90 degrees
  • Extension 90 to 0 degrees

Influencing Factors

There are numerous influences—inherant and situational—that can affect your ROM. Some of the things that you can’t control and that you are born with include:

  • The type of joint; there are some joints that aren't meant to move a lot.
  • The internal resistance within a joint.
  • Bony structures which limit movement.
  • The elasticity of muscle tissue, for instance, muscle tissue that is scarred due to a previous injury is not very elastic.
  • The muscle's ability to relax and contract to achieve the greatest range of movement.

Another factor that you can't control is how old you are.

One study examined the effects of age and sex on joint ranges of motion and found that older participants showed smaller ROMs than their younger counterparts. In one case, the difference in ROM was 44.9 percent for the eversion and inversion of the foot. What’s more, older subjects needed more time to reach a full range of motion.

As for gender, it was found to have a significant effect on ROM. Men had smaller ROMs than women in some areas, with the greatest difference, 29.7 percent, occurring in the hand.

These differences in age and sex were found to affect specific joints and motions, which could be explained by the differences in anatomy and the frequency that the joints are used in activities between the groups.

Limited range of motion is a term used when a joint has a reduction in its ability to move. This can be due to injuries to the soft tissues surrounding a joint. Regaining range of motion in a joint is one of the first phases of injury rehabilitation. Physical therapists often prescribe specific ROM exercises for each joint. It may also be caused by diseases such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or other types of arthritis.

Making Improvements

Each joint has a normal ROM, while each person has a different amount of ability to achieve it. Joints maintain a balanced range of motion by regular use and stretching of the surrounding soft tissues (muscles, tendons, and ligaments). Just 10 minutes of stretching three times a week can help improve range of motion.

study found that small gains in ROM might be made by applying heat while stretching. In healthy individuals, those who were complaining of tight muscles saw a slight improvement in range of motion with heat and stretching compared to those who only stretched.

Exercises

Physical therapists often prescribe specific ROM exercises for each joint. These exercises aim to gently increase the range of motion with attention to the pain, stiffness, and swelling that may be present. There are three types of range-of-motion exercises:

  • Active range-of-motion: You perform these exercises without assistance.
  • Active assistive range-of-motion: The therapist helps the patient do these exercises. This is may be done if the muscles are weak or when the movement causes discomfort.
  • Passive range-of-motion: The therapist or equipment moves the joint through the range of motion without any effort from the patient.

A Word From Verywell

You need to be able to move your joints through their normal ranges to perform many tasks of daily living and job duties as well as to enjoy physical activity and sports. You can improve your flexibility through range-of-motion exercises whether you are healthy or need rehabilitation from an injury.

Sources:

Behm DG, Blazevich AJ, Kay AD, McHugh M. Acute effects of muscle stretching on physical performance, range of motion, and injury incidence in healthy active individuals: a systematic review. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2016 Jan;41(1):1-11. doi: 10.1139/apnm-2015-0235. Epub 2015 Dec 8.

Hwang J, Jung MC. Age and sex differences in ranges of motion and motion patterns.Int J Occup Saf Ergon. 2015;21(2):173-86. doi: 10.1080/10803548.2015.1029301.

Nakano J, Yamabayashi C, Scott A, Reid WD. The effect of heat applied with stretch to increase range of motion: a systematic review. Phys Ther Sport. 2012 Aug;13(3):180-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ptsp.2011.11.003. Epub 2011 Dec 29.

Normal Joint Range of Motion Study. Centers for Disease Control. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/jointrom/.

Physical Therapy (PT). Merck Manual Professional. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/special-subjects/rehabilitation/physical-therapy-pt.

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