Range of motion is important at any age. If you’re lacking full range, you’ll want to know how to measure your range of motion, increase it and what factors may be impacting your joint’s range of motion.
How to Measure Range of Motion
The most accurate way to measure your range of motion is with a goniometer. A goniometer is a device used by physical therapists to check a joint’s precise range of motion in degrees.
The device, which looks like a ruler, has two separate arms. One moves, and the other is stationary. The center of the goniometer is positioned at the center of the joint, and the hash marks on the hinge tell the physical therapist the exact range of motion in degrees.
You can also find digital goniometers and smartphone apps that have the same function to measure your range of motion. Studies show that these methods are just as effective as traditional goniometers, and they can be effective at helping you gauge whether your efforts are helping you increase your range of motion.
What Factors Influence Range of Motion of a Joint?
Range of motion can be affected by many things, including:
Fat or Muscle Mass
Excess muscle mass or fat can reduce your joint’s natural range of motion by physically blocking the path of movement.
Injury or Disease
Injury or disease can hinder your range of motion. Pain can be especially detrimental to your flexibility because it causes your muscles to contract, which limits your joint’s range of motion.
Injuries and diseases that can limit your range of motion include:
In many cases, rehabilitation and treatments can help restore and improve your range of motion.
A tissue’s extensibility refers to the flexibility of your muscles and their connective tissues. If you don’t move or stretch your muscles regularly, they can become stiff and lose their extensibility.
Your activity level greatly affects your tissue extensibility. People who are more active are generally more flexible and have a greater range of motion compared to people who lead sedentary lifestyles.
Age and Gender
We naturally lose flexibility as we age. Over time, our muscle mass is replaced by adipose and fibrous connective tissue. More fibrous connective tissue means that older adults have to hold their stretches for longer to get the same range of motion benefits that younger adults get in half the time.
How to Increase Range of Motion
The only real way to increase your range of motion is through movement and stretching.
When most people think of stretching, they think of static stretching. This is when you hold a stretch without movement for 30-60 seconds. The goal is to elongate the tissue to the point where it causes mild to moderate discomfort.
Holding the stretch for longer – five minutes or more – can help you maximize your results. Just make sure that you’re not pushing the stretch to the point where it’s painful.
Static stretching is the go-to method for improving range of motion, and it’s very effective. In fact, research shows that static stretching can be more effective than dynamic range of motion stretching for improving hamstring flexibility.
Dynamic and Ballistic Stretching
A more active type of stretching. With dynamic stretching, you can move in and out of your range of motion. Ballistic stretching is when you move your joint through its available range of motion quickly and end with an end-range stretch.
Dynamic and ballistic stretching is not recommended for individuals recovering from injuries, those who are just getting started with stretching, and inexperienced athletes.
Stretching is a great way to improve your range of motion, but adding exercise into the mix can accelerate your results.
In fact, performing strength training exercises at the full range of motion can improve your flexibility.
Another effective way to improve your range of motion is to practice yoga. Yoga offers the best of both worlds – stretching and strength-building exercise.
There are many types of yoga, but beginners should consider starting with hatha yoga. Hatha yoga requires you to hold poses, or stretches, for longer. Other types of yoga incorporate dynamic movement with your breath, which can further help you improve your flexibility and range of motion.
How Long Does It Take to Improve Your Range of Motion?
That depends on how consistent you are with exercising and stretching. It also depends on the cause of your reduced range of motion.
If your range of motion is suffering because of an injury, it will take some time for your body to recover. It may take just as long or even longer to increase your range of motion in this case.
If you’re just looking to improve your flexibility because you want to reduce the risk of injury or for personal reasons, you may see results faster.
If you’re recovering from an injury and dealing with pain – both of which can limit your range of motion – our Recovery Cream may help. Formulated with MSM, magnesium, and healing essential oils, Recovery can provide pain relief while accelerating your recovery.