Understanding Range of Motion and How You Can Increase It Naturally
Some of us might not realize that our joints are not moving at their optimal range. You should be able to move your joints around without feeling any type of pain or restriction.
Range of motion is the range through which a joint can be moved. There are different types of range of motions. Each joint is meant to move differently depending on the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that surround it.
Restricted range of motion can be caused by:
- Inflammation of the soft tissue
- Muscle stiffness
- Joint dislocation
- Fractures in nearby areas of your body
- Medical conditions
After reading this article, you will have a better understanding of what range of motion is, as well as natural ways to increase your range of motion without using medication or taking extreme measures such as operating.
What is the range of motion around a joint?
When we talk about the range of motion (ROM) around a joint, we are talking about both the distance a joint can move as well as the direction in which it can move. Doctors have defined standard ranges of motion for your joints. If your joints do not move the way that they are meant to, then you have restricted ROM in that specific joint.
In this study, researchers determined the ‘normal’ range of motion that different age groups should have in different joint areas. For example, they determined that a Hip Flexion movement in a female aged 20-44 should have a ROM between 132.5 degrees – 135.1 degrees.
How can you prevent limited range of motion?
Preventing and treating a limited range of motion can be done in a natural and holistic way. There are exercise routines as well as different types of massages that you can do to help regain movement in a specific joint. The best part about these exercises, as well as massage, is that you can do them in the comfort of your own home.
You can increase your range of motion by doing specific exercise movements that are designed to help increase your range of motion. Make sure that you speak to your doctor before you start to perform any form of exercise to make sure that it is safe for you to do so.
Omega oils are also a great way for you to look after your joints. Some experts say that you should oil your joints from the inside out. Research has found that people who eat fish high in Omega-3 are less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis. Omega-3 may also help to reduce joint swelling and pain.
Another great way for you to increase your range of motion is massage. Massage has been around for a very long time and it is there to help increase blood flow, heal muscles, and aid in relaxation. As a professional massage therapist, I have found that massage and certain stretches and movements have helped my clients increase their range of motion tremendously.
Self massage to increase range of motion
You might be wondering: how does massage help with range of motion? Massage increases range of motion because it increases muscle tissue elasticity. If you have poor muscle elasticity, your muscles will limit the amount of movement that your joints are able to perform.
In a study that was done in 2015, researchers compared the difference between manual massage and foam rolling on the knee and hip area. They found that manual massage improved the range of motion by 13–15°. Overall, the study found that manual massage increased the range of motion more than when people used the foam roller.
Self massage might seem like a difficult thing for you to do but it is actually simple. All you need to do is identify the area that has limited range of motion. Apply some cream or oil to that area and then apply a firm pressure going in the direction of your heart. You will increase the elasticity in that muscle, as well as the amount of lymphatic drainage, which will help with detoxification in the body.
Exercises to increase range of motion
There are three types of exercise categories that will help with ROM: Active, Active assistive, and passive.
Active: Active exercise is when you move the joint by yourself without any help from another person. For example, you actively flex and extend your ankle as well as move the joint around in a circle.
Active assistive: Active assistive exercises rely on the effort that you put in, as well as effort put in by someone else. This other person can be a professional or someone who is there to help you through your healing journey. These movements are helpful when it is painful to flex or extend the joint by yourself. For example, if you have hurt your shoulder, someone will grab your arm whilst you relax the muscles in your arm. They will then slowly move your arm out and to the side. They will then stop at the point of pain and let the muscles and joint rest there for a few seconds before bringing your arm back to the side of your body.
Passive: These are exercises that rely on the effort of someone else. These exercises are normally performed when you are unable to move the joint by yourself. These types of exercises are often done after you have just had an operation or injury, or you just are not able to move the joint by yourself. The professional will hold onto the joint and move the limb without you engaging any of the muscles that surround the joint.
According to blog.arthritis.org, physical activity helps reduce pain and increase range of motion in people who suffer from arthritis. Even if you do not have arthritis, you may get the same benefits when it comes to increasing your range of motion.
Ways in which you can increase range of motion in specific areas of the body
We are now going to look at specific exercises that you can do that will help your range of motion in specific joints.
How to increase range of motion in your shoulders
There are different exercises that you can do that will help increase your range of motion in your shoulder. Harvard Medical School released an article showing you which exercises can help increase mobility.
- Pendulum Stretch
Firstly you need to relax your shoulder. Stand or lean over slightly and allow your affected arm to hang down. You are then going to want to swing your arm in a small circle. Do 10 circles in each direction once a day.
- Finger Walk
Face a wall about three-quarters of an arm’s length away. Reach out and touch the wall with your fingertips at waist level. You want your elbow to be slightly bent and then you are slowly going to walk your fingertips up the wall like a spider. Keep going until you reach a point of pain or discomfort. Once you have reached that point, leave your arm there for a few seconds and then slowly walk your fingers down the wall. Do this 10-20 times a day.
How to increase range of motion in your knees
There are many different methods and exercises to increase range of motion in your knees. A 2008 study shows the best movements and exercises to increase range of motion in your knees.
- Heel Slides
Lie on your back or sit on the floor. Make sure that your legs are stretched out and are as straight as possible. You are then going to slowly bend your knee by sliding your heel towards your buttocks and then back down to the starting position. Each set will consist of 10 of these movements. You want to do 3 sets of 10 once a day with 45 seconds rest between each set.
- Knee Flexion
Begin by lying face down. You can place a pillow underneath your stomach if this is more comfortable. Place a resistance band around your ankles and slowly bring your ankle towards your head. You do not want to go past the point of pain. Slowly pull on the band to flex your knee, hold it there for a few seconds and then bring your ankle back to the starting position. Perform this exercise three times a day for best results.
How to increase range of motion in your hips
There are so many different hip exercises out there. Finding the right ones for you might take some time, and you may need to consult a professional to ask which routine is best for you and your specific situation. Here are a few of the more common hip exercises that you can do.
- Hip Circles
You are going to stand on your right leg and lift your left leg. Then, move your left leg in a clockwise circle. Do 20 circles and then change directions. Once you have done both directions, change legs and do the same on your right hip.
- Sidestep with band/exercise belt
(Make sure that you keep your toes facing straight ahead. You can increase the intensity of this exercise by lowering the band and lowering your squat position.)
First you are going to stand in a half-squat position. Place the resistance band around your lower thighs. Then, engage your hip muscles as you slowly take small steps to the side. You want to take 8-15 steps in one direction and then take 8-15 steps in the opposite direction.
It is now safe to say that you have a better understanding about range of motion, as well as how you can increase your ROM using natural ways. Exercises and the massages might take you a bit longer than medication or surgery to fully resolve any issues, but there are a multitude of benefits to increasing your range of motion holistically. At the end of the day, the natural way will not only increase your range of motion, but it will also help to strengthen the muscles around the joints. This will increase your overall muscle and joint health in the long run.
Always remember that:
- When you massage, apply more pressure towards your heart and less pressure away from your heart. This will ensure that you go with your body’s natural cycle and blood flow.
- Do not go past the point of pain when you are doing your exercises. If it hurts, you need to stop. Pain does not equal gain. It can cause injuries.
- If you are still struggling with your range of motion, consult a doctor. There might be a neurological issue or a fracture that you are unaware of.
If you would like to learn more about natural ways to help your body deal with everyday problems, feel free to join our email list. You will receive regular updates on posts about how you can heal your body in a natural and holistic way.