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Limited range of motion

Definition

Limited range of motion is a reduction in the normal distance and direction through which a joint can move.

Considerations

Range of motion is the distance and direction of movement of a joint. Limited range of motion is a term meaning that a specific joint or body part cannot move through its normal range of motion.

Motion may be limited by a mechanical problem within the joint, by swelling of tissue around the joint, by stiffness of the muscles, or by pain.

Diseases that prevent a joint from fully extending may, over time, produce contracture deformities, causing permanent inability to extend the joint beyond a certain fixed position.

Common Causes

Home Care

Your health care provider may recommend range of motion exercises, designed to increase muscle strength and flexibility. Continue these exercises at home.

Call your health care provider if

Visit your health care provider if a joint does not move fully and easily in its normal way. If a joint develops (new) changes in its ability to move, the affected part should be examined to determine the cause.

What to expect at your health care provider's office

The health care provider will perform a physical examination and will ask you about your medical history. Questions may include:

  • When did your symptoms start?
  • How bad is it?
  • What body part is affected?
  • Does the limited range of motion affect more than one body area?
  • Do you also have pain?
  • What other symptoms do you have?

Note: Limited range of motion may be discovered by the health care provider during an examination for other conditions, and the affected person may or may not have been aware of its presence.

The muscular system, nervous system, and skeleton may be examined in detail. Depending on the cause, joint x-rays and spine x-rays may be needed. Other tests may also be done.

Physical therapy may be recommended.

References

DeLee JC, Drez D Jr, Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez’s Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009.

Firestein GS, Budd RC, Harris ED Jr, et al, eds. Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008.


Review Date: 8/3/2010
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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