What Is Range of Motion?

ROM Explained

Human skeleton
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Generally speaking, range of motion refers to the distance and direction a joint can move to its full potential. Each specific joint has a normal range of motion that is expressed in degrees after being measured with a goniometer (i.e., an instrument that measures angles from axis of the joint).

Limited Range of Motion

Limited range of motion refers to a joint that has a reduction in its ability to move.

The reduced motion may be a mechanical problem with the specific joint or it may be caused by diseases such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or other types of arthritis. Pain, swelling, and stiffness associated with arthritis can limit the range of motion of a particular joint and impair function and the ability to perform usual daily activities.

Range-of-Motion Exercises

Physical therapy can help to improve joint function by focusing on range-of-motion exercises. The goal of these exercises is to gently increase range of motion while decreasing pain, swelling, and stiffness. There are three types of range-of-motion exercises:

  • Active range-of-motion - patient exercises without any assistance
  • Active assistive range-of-motion - patient requires some help from therapist to do the exercises
  • Passive range-of-motion - therapist or equipment moves patient through range of motion (no effort from patient)

    Normal Range of Motion for Each Joint

    It's important to know the normal range of motion for each joint. After physical examination, if it is determined that you have limited or abnormal range of motion in one or more joints, you can put together a treatment plan with your doctor. You can be reassessed for range of motion to determine if the treatment is effective.

    Patients who have joint surgery must also go through extensive rehabilitation to get back to normal range of motion in the affected joint.

    Normal Values (in degrees):

    • Hip flexion (bending) 0-125
    • Hip extension (straightening) 115-0
    • Hip hyperextension (straightening beyond normal range) 0-15
    • Hip abduction (move away from central axis of body) 0-45
    • Hip adduction (move towards central axis of body) 45-0
    • Hip lateral rotation (rotation away from center of body) 0-45
    • Hip medial rotation (rotation towards center of body) 0-45
    • Knee flexion 0-130
    • Knee extension 120-0
    • Ankle plantar flexion (movement downward) 0-50
    • Ankle dorsiflexion (movement upward) 0-20
    • Foot inversion (turned inward) 0-35
    • Foot eversion (turned outward) 0-25
    • Metatarsophalangeal joints flexion 0-30
    • Metatarsophalangeal joints extension 0-80
    • Interphalangeal joints of toe flexion 0-50
    • Interphalangeal joints of toe extension 50-0
    • Shoulder flexion 0-90
    • Shoulder extension 0-50
    • Shoulder abduction 0-90
    • Shoulder adduction 90-0
    • Shoulder lateral rotation 0-90
    • Shoulder medial rotation 0-90
    • Elbow flexion 0-160
    • Elbow extension 145-0
    • Elbow pronation (rotation inward) 0-90
    • Elbow supination (rotation outward) 0-90
    • Wrist flexion 0-90
    • Wrist extension 0-70
    • Wrist abduction 0-25
    • Wrist adduction 0-65
    • Metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joints abduction 0-25
    • MCP adduction 20-0
    • MCP flexion 0-90
    • MCP extension 0-30
    • Interphalangeal proximal (PIP) joints of fingers flexion 0-120
    • PIP extension 120-0
    • Interphalangeal distal (DIP) joint of fingers flexion 0-80
    • DIP extension 80-0
    • Metacarpophalangeal joint of thumb abduction 0-50
    • MCP of thumb adduction 40-0
    • MCP of thumb flexion 0-70
    • MCP of thumb extension 60-0
    • Interphalangeal joint of thumb flexion 0-90
    • Interphalangeal joint of thumb extension 90-0


    Physical Therapy. Merck Manual Professional. November 2005.

    Limited Range of Motion. University of Maryland Medical Center. 11/2/2006.

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