Use it or Lose it!

Top Tips for Maintaining Healthy ROM

Range of motion, or range of movement (ROM), refers to the amount that a joint can move, or be moved. When we experience pain or discomfort, we often point the finger at soft tissue structures, though joint-related movement restriction is also a significant contributor. We have hundreds of joints throughout our body, all ranging in size and structure. Hinge joints at the knee, ball and socket joints in the shoulder/hip, pivot joints at the wrist… the list goes on. When it comes to joint movement, there is one golden rule to remember: use it, or lose it.


As we age our range of movement naturally starts to deteriorate, the sooner you keep a focus on maintaining a healthy range of motion the better you will be in the long run.


Joints move in many different ways. Not only does the structure of each joint influence the way it moves, but a joint will move differently depending on the forces placed on it. When working with a therapist, your ROM will be screened actively (you moving independently), passively (the therapist moving you) and against resistance. So how do we take care of ROM outside of the treatment room?


Range of Motion Exercises

Nothing in the body works independently, and thus maintaining healthy ROM depends on two main factors: the flexibility of our muscles, and the movement of our joints. Combining muscular stretches and joint mobility work will yield the most effective results when it comes to ROM maintenance. Consistent engagement can increase joint ROM, improve function of an entire limb, decrease pain and improve movement patterns.


Here are some quick and effective exercises targeting ROM in our joints. For each range of movement you execute compare it with its opposing movement. Does one side feel freer than the other? Do you find you don’t have the same range of motion in one side? If this is the case you may need some soft tissue release work to help free up the muscles that are causing the restrictions. Our Maintenance Therapists are perfect for this.



Neck | sets of 5 - 10 in each direction


  • look left/right

  • look up/down

  • ears to shoulders

  • slow half-circles of the head, roll your head from through a lower arc (left to right, right to left) and then an upper arc


Shoulders | sets of 5 - 10 in each direction


  • Reach frontways and up (Flexion) then down and back (Hyperflexion)

  • Reach outwards and up (Abduction)

  • Hold arm at 90 degrees to shoulder and forearm at 90 degrees to upper arm. Rotate down and back up with minimal movement to the shoulder (Outward and Inward Rotation)

  • Controlled single arm circles clockwise/anticlockwise

Hips | sets of 12 in each direction

  • Single leg hip circles lying down

  • Supine lying twist

Ankles | sets of 12 in each direction


  • Ankle circles clockwise and anticlockwise

  • Knee to wall stretch - stand in front of a wall and bend your knee. Move your foot until you can just touch the wall with your knee. If you have a ruler stand on the ruler and measure how far your foot is from the wall. Now try the other foot - are they the same?

  • Point and flex through the feet and toes

Some things to consider...

Remember to keep it simple. All of these movements are designed to be fitted into your daily activities for ultimate convenience. Think about moments in your day where you may have a chance to drop these exercises in - perhaps when washing the dishes, sitting at your desk, before getting out of bed… it really is that simple!

Progress and regress as you need. If pain levels are high and assistance is needed, our therapists can provide you with recommendations for tools such as a Shoulder Pulley and associated exercises. Alternatively performing these exercises in the pool or ocean to eliminate gravitational pull is another great way to increase your ROM without adding strain to the muscles.

When you are ready to progress you can either increase repetitions or increase resistance with resistance bands. Remember that the aim here is maintenance; we are not looking for major changes but rather to uphold healthy, pain-free joint movement. So keep your ROM exercises simple and if there is any pain or areas of ‘stickiness’ speak with a therapist who can talk you through the best ways forward.

Top Tips for Maintaining ROM

  1. Keep it simple & consistent

  2. Progress when you are ready, Regress if you need to

  3. Exercise in water to reduce gravitational pull while increasing resistance

  4. Use it or Lose it!

Keep an eye on our website and social media as we will be posting simple videos to demonstrate these key ROM exercises.

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