Your elbow is a hinged joint that handles a fair amount of stress during certain actions, especially when swinging an object like a tennis racquet or performing an overhand throw. Even actions like lifting an object or simply holding your arms in one position for an extended period, like what you may experience if you work a desk job, can become painful if you’re dealing with an injury or inflammation to your elbow joint.
When an issue develops in your elbow, your natural reaction may be to protect the area and limit movement, and while that’s usually a smart move in the very early stages of treatment, prolonged inactivity can actually lead to decreased elbow flexibility. If you want to restore normal range of motion in your elbow joint following an injury, or you’re simply looking to expand your comfortable range of motion and improve elbow flexibility to better perform certain tasks, you need to actively target the area. Oftentimes the best way to do that is with physical therapy. Below, we explain how a physical therapist can help to restore or expand your comfortable range of motion in your elbow joint.
Improving Elbow Flexibility
Whatever your reasons for wanting to restore or improve flexibility in your elbow joint, if you’ve connected with a physical therapist, you’ve come to the right place. By nature, physical therapy is designed to help gradually improve specific structures so that they can become stronger, more stable or have improved functionality. We can improve function and flexibility in a number of different ways, but your PT will likely focus on making these four elbow movements more comfortable.
- Flexion – Flexion occurs when you bend your forearm up towards your body. A normal elbow flexion range of motion is between 140-150 degrees, which is considered fully bent.
- Extension – Extension is the opposite of flexion, and this position is when you straighten your arm. Normal elbow extension range of motion is 0 degrees, or fully straight.
- Pronation – With your arm out in front of you, pronation occurs when you rotate your arm so that the palm of your hand is facing upwards. Normal pronation range of motion is between 75 and 85 degrees.
- Supination – Supination occurs when you rotate your arm such that your palm is facing downwards. Normal active supination range of motion is between 80-90 degrees.
Your physical therapist can develop some specific exercises and movement techniques to slowly improve your range of motion for any of the above movements, but working with a PT is only part of the equation. If you want to work to improve your elbow flexibility on your own, you’ll want to live an active lifestyle, perform some elbow and arm strengthening exercises, and use ice and heat to help limit inflammation or increase blood flow to an area based on your needs. For example, many people find that icing their elbows after a round of golf or a game of Pickleball can help to limit inflammation that can serve to decrease your comfortable range of motion in your elbow.
To learn more about some of the specific exercises that you can perform to improve your elbow range of motion, or to talk to a physical therapist about any elbow discomfort that you are experiencing, reach out to the team at OrthoRehab Specialists today at (612) 339-2041.
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