Normal Range Of Motion By Joint Explained

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Runners or other athletes often feel like one or more joints are unduly tight or that they have limited mobility in a certain joint.

But what is range of motion, and how is range of motion measured? What is the normal range of motion for a hip? The normal ankle ROM? Or the normal range of motion for a shoulder?

Keep reading to find out what the normal range of motion for an ankle is as well as all the rest of our joints!

We will cover: 

  • What Is Range Of Motion?
  • How Is Range of Motion Measured?
  • What Is the Normal Range of Motion For Each Joint?

Let’s get started!

A physical therapist checks a patient's shoulder's normal range of motion.

What Is Range Of Motion?

Range of motion refers to the amount of movement that you have in any joint, typically measured at an angle in degrees using a tool called a goniometer. 

There are two primary types of range of motion: passive range of motion and active range of motion.

Passive range of motion, also called PROM for short, denotes the amount of permissible movement you have around a joint when assisted or moved by another person, such as a physical therapist, or when you use a stretching rope or another assistive device to deepen the stretch and move your limb through a wider range of motion.

Passive range of motion indicates how much flexibility you have in the tissues around a joint.

Active range of motion, often referred to as AROM, refers to the amount of movement that you have around a joint when controlled by your own muscles. 

When comparing passive vs. active range of motion, passive range of motion is an indication of your flexibility, while active range of motion is an indication of your mobility or the amount of functional movement you are able to attain at a joint.

A physical therapist checks a patient's ankle's normal range of motion.

How Is Range of Motion Measured?

In a physical therapy setting, range of motion can be measured using a device called a goniometer. 

A goniometer is a flat, handheld device made from metal or plastic. It has two moveable arms that are attached together at one end with a brad of sorts so that the arms can be opened apart from one another to measure angles. 

One arm of the goniometer is lined up along one bone of the joint, the union of the two where the brad is located is lined up in the center of the joint axis, and the other arm gets moved to line up with the other bone in the joint.

Numbers that indicate the angular distance (like a protractor) between the two arms on the device are used to determine your range of motion as you move your joint, and the physical therapist adjusts the goniometer accordingly.

Unless you have an injury, measuring passive range of motion in your joints should not be painful. The physical therapist will move your limbs until a certain amount of tissue resistance is felt. This is the stopping point or the end range of motion for that movement at the joint, so it is where the physical therapist will take a joint angle measurement.

A physical therapist checks a patient's elbow's normal range of motion.

Then, your limb will be moved in the opposite direction to determine your passive range of motion.

For example, if your physical therapist is measuring your passive range of motion for flexion of the right hip, you will lie flat on your back on the table. 

A goniometer will be lined up so that the axis is right on top of the ball and socket joint for the hip. One arm of the goniometer will be lined up parallel to your femur or thigh bone, while the other one will be lined up parallel to your trunk, along the side of your body.

Then, to measure passive range of motion, the physical therapist will gently guide your straightened leg up into the air as far as it can go. 

If you have 90° of flexion in your hip, for example, the end position will be your leg straight up in the air perpendicular to the floor. 

If you have a greater passive range of motion in your hip, the physical therapist will be able to push your leg further toward your body so that your foot starts coming down closer to your head.

A physical therapist checks a patient's knee's normal range of motion.

Whenever you either verbally indicate that you can no longer comfortably tolerate the flexion angle or when your physical therapist feels a certain amount of resistance from your tissues, the final ROM measurement will be taken, and you will relax your leg back to the starting position.

The same procedure and device are used to measure active range of motion. The only difference is that instead of the physical therapist manually moving your limbs for you, you have to actively engage your muscles yourself to attain the necessary joint movements.

In our example of hip flexion, you would use your core and hip flexor muscles to do a straight leg lift and raise your leg as high as possible straight into the air without touching it or providing any type of assistance to the movement.

In most cases, active range of motion will be less than passive range of motion because there is often some degree of flexibility without neuromuscularly-controlled mobility. This ROM can be inaccessible without some type of assistance, such as gravity, a stretching rope, or manual assistance.

A physical therapist checks a patient's hip's normal range of motion.

What Is the Normal Range of Motion For Each Joint?

So, how do you know if you have normal ankle ROM and what are the ankle ROM norms? What about other joints?

Working with a physical therapist is the best way to ensure that you have a normal passive range of motion and active range of motion in each joint to support healthy flexibility and mobility because PTs are trained in measuring PROM and AROM and determining what range of motion is healthy for you.

With that said, here are the generally accepted values for normal range of motion at each joint. 

Note that there is some variety in the exact normal range of motion numbers for movements at certain joints between different sources and for different ages and sexes, but these values should give you a general idea of the normal range of motion for each one.

Let’s check out what the normal range of motion for an ankle is and all of the rest of our joints!

Hip

  • Flexion (leg coming up forward towards the trunk): 130 degrees
  • Extension (leg going backward behind your body): 30 degrees
  • Abduction (leg going straight out to the side): 40 degrees
  • Adduction (leg coming inward past the centerline of your body towards the opposite side): 20 degrees
  • External rotation (leg turning away from the center of the body): 60 degrees
  • Internal rotation (leg turning in towards the center of the body): 40 degrees
A physical therapist checks a patient's knees's normal range of motion.

Knee

  • Flexion (bending): 140-150 degrees
  • Extension (straightening beyond neutral): 1 degree

Ankle

  • Plantarflexion (pointing the toes down like pressing a gas pedal): 55-60 degrees
  • Dorsiflexion (lifting the toes up towards the shin): 13 degrees

Foot

  • Inversion (inward turning of the sole): 30 degrees
  • Eversion (outward turning of the sole): 20 degrees
  • Metatarsophalangeal Flexion (bending the toes where they meet the foot): 30 degrees
  • Metatarsophalangeal Extension (lifting the toes upward where they meet the foot): 80 degrees
  • Interphalangeal Flexion (bending the toes in the middle) 50 degrees
  • Interphalangeal Extension (straightening the toes in the middle joint): 50 degrees
A physical therapist checks a patient's shoulder's normal range of motion.

Shoulder

  • Flexion (lifting your straight arm in front of your body): 170 degrees
  • Extension (straightening your arm behind your body): 50 degrees
  • Abduction (lifting your arms straight out to the side like a giant T): 150 degrees
  • Adduction (bringing your arms across the midline of your body towards the other arm): 30 degrees
  • External rotation (turning your arm outward): 90 degrees
  • Internal rotation (turning your arm inward): 90 degrees

Elbow

  • Flexion (bending): 150 degrees
  • Pronation (rotating the forearm inward): 80 degrees
  • Supination (rotating the forearm outward): 85-90 degrees

Wrist

  • Flexion (bending your wrist, so your palm comes closer to the inner forearm): 60 degrees
  • Extension (bringing the back of the hand towards the hairy side of the arm): 60 degrees
  • Abduction (shifting your hand so that your pinky comes closer to your wrist on the outside): 30 degrees
  • Adduction (shifting your hand so that your thumb comes closer to your wrist on the inside): 20 degrees
A physical therapist checks a patient's finger's normal range of motion.

Hand and Fingers

  • Metacarpophalangeal Flexion (bending the fingers where they meet the hand at the palm): 80 degrees
  • Metacarpophalangeal Extension (bending your fingers backward): 30 degrees
  • Metacarpophalangeal Abduction (bringing a finger towards the outside of your body away from the middle finger): 25 degrees
  • Metacarpophalangeal Adduction (bringing your outer fingers inward towards the middle finger): 20 degrees
  • Proximal Interphalangeal Flexion (bending the joint in the middle of your finger): 120 degrees
  • Proximal Interphalangeal Extension (straightening the joint in the middle of your finger): 120 degrees
  • Distal Interphalangeal Flexion (bending the tip of your finger): 80 degrees
  • Distal Interphalangeal Extension (straightening the tip of your finger): 80 degrees
  • Metacarpophalangeal Flexion bending your thumb towards your palm): 60 degrees
  • Metacarpophalangeal Extension (bending your thumb toward the back of your hand): 60 degrees
  • Metacarpophalangeal Abduction (bringing your thumb away from the rest of your fingers): 50 degrees
  • Metacarpophalangeal Adduction (bringing your thumb inward towards your middle finger): 40 degrees
  • Thumb Interphalangeal Flexion (bending your thumb at the middle joint): 80 degrees
  • Thumb Interphalangeal Extension (bending your thumb backward at the middle joint): 90 degrees

If you are concerned that your range of motion in a joint is below normal values, consider working with a physical therapist to improve flexibility and mobility to help you start feeling and moving better.

To get started with some general mobility exercises, check out our Mobility for Runners guide.

A physical therapist checks a patient's shoulder's normal range of motion.
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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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