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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:

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. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 17.

Review Date 9/22/2016

Updated 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, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.