Everyone needs exercise to stay healthy and functional. Physical therapy exercises are crucial for those confined to a bed or wheelchair, patients who must remain inert for an extended period of time, and to help speed recovery from injuries.
Range-of-motion, or ROM, exercises are a type of physical therapy designed to keep joints flexible, muscles healthy, and oxygen-rich blood flowing. They may be passive, active-assisted, or active. Passive ROMs are done for a patient by a caregiver, while active ROMs, such as yoga, are completed by the patient alone. Active-assisted exercises are a combination.
Guidelines for range of motion exercises:
- Start at the head and work down to the toes.
- Doing exercises in the same order will help you remember all of them.
- Aim for fluid movements and do not pass the point of resistance.
- Begin gradually and work up to more repetitions.
- Aim for a full range of motion, to the point where a small stretch is felt.
- If a movement results in pain, back off from the exercise or stop it altogether.
Types of ROM exercises include flexing, rotating, extending, or abduction movements of the:
- Head and neck
- Shoulder and elbow
- Forearm and wrist
- Hand and finger
- Hip and knee
- Ankle and foot
If doing range-of-motion exercises on your own, try to do them at the same time each day so that it becomes a part of your routine. You can even break your exercises into groups and do them at different times throughout the day. Maintain correct posture by standing or sitting straight, with your stomach contracted and your hips parallel to your shoulders. This will aid breathing and help strengthen muscles. After each exercise, return to the starting position. Remember to drink plenty of water, and rest after exercises that are particularly tiring.
If assisting a patient, first practice with their caregiver. Wash your hands to prevent transferring pathogens to the patient. Raise the person to a comfortable level if possible, and assume the aforementioned sitting or standing posture. Keep the person’s limbs supported, and observe his or her reaction as you slowly and gently move through the exercises.
Physical therapy is a valuable tool to aid recovery and help you achieve your body’s full potential.