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Limited range of motion

Limited range of motion is a term meaning that a joint or body part cannot move through its normal range of motion.

Considerations

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

Causes

A sudden loss of range of motion may be due to:

  • Dislocation of a joint
  • Fracture of an elbow or other joint
  • Infected joint (hip is most common in children)
  • Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease (in boys 4 to 10 years old)
  • Nursemaid elbow, an injury to the elbow joint (in young children)
  • Tearing of certain structures within the joint (such as the meniscus or cartilage)

Loss of motion may occur if you damage the bones within a joint. This may happen if you have:

Brain, nerve, or muscle disorders can damage the nerves, tendons, and muscles, and can cause loss of motion. Some of these disorders include:

  • Cerebral palsy (group of disorders that involve brain and nervous system functions)
  • Congenital torticollis (wry neck)
  • Muscular dystrophy(group of inherited disorders that cause muscle weakness)
  • Stroke or brain injury
  • Volkmann contracture (deformity of the hand, fingers, and wrist caused by injury to the muscles of the forearm)

Home Care

Your health care provider may suggest exercises to increase muscle strength and flexibility.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Make an appointment with your provider if you have difficulty moving or extending a joint.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

The provider will examine you and ask about your medical history and symptoms.

You may need joint x-rays and spine x-rays. Laboratory tests may be done.

Physical therapy may be recommended.

References

Magee DJ. Primary care assessment. In: Magee DJ, ed. Orthopedic Physical Assessment. 6th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 17.

Text only

  • The structure of a joint

    The structure of a joint - illustration

    Joints, particularly hinge joints like the elbow and the knee, are complex structures made up of bone, muscles, synovium, cartilage, and ligaments that are designed to bear weight and move the body through space. The knee consists of the femur (thigh bone) above, and the tibia (shin bone) and fibula below. The kneecap (patella) glides through a shallow groove on the front part of the lower thigh bone. Ligaments and tendons connect the three bones of the knee, which are contained in the joint capsule (synovium) and are cushioned by cartilage.

    The structure of a joint

    illustration

  • Limited range of motion

    Limited range of motion - illustration

    When a joint does not move fully and easily in its normal manner it is considered to have a limited range of motion. Motion may be limited by a mechanical problem within the joint, swelling of tissue around the joint, spasticity of the muscles, pain or disease.

    Limited range of motion

    illustration

    • The structure of a joint

      The structure of a joint - illustration

      Joints, particularly hinge joints like the elbow and the knee, are complex structures made up of bone, muscles, synovium, cartilage, and ligaments that are designed to bear weight and move the body through space. The knee consists of the femur (thigh bone) above, and the tibia (shin bone) and fibula below. The kneecap (patella) glides through a shallow groove on the front part of the lower thigh bone. Ligaments and tendons connect the three bones of the knee, which are contained in the joint capsule (synovium) and are cushioned by cartilage.

      The structure of a joint

      illustration

    • Limited range of motion

      Limited range of motion - illustration

      When a joint does not move fully and easily in its normal manner it is considered to have a limited range of motion. Motion may be limited by a mechanical problem within the joint, swelling of tissue around the joint, spasticity of the muscles, pain or disease.

      Limited range of motion

      illustration

     

    Review Date: 8/15/2018

    Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

    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. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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