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Improving and Maintaining Healthy Joints

Elam Sports O`ahu Explains How

The body’s joints can be weakened by damage and inflammation. In addition, joints often suffer from lack of use. As we mature, the motions we perform can take on a routine pattern that may not flex the joints to their full range of motion. Taking the joints through a deliberate series of movements that extends the range of motions can reduce pain and stiffness and regain strength. Physical therapists are trained to prescribe exercises that are designed to improve range of motion, reduce pain and improve strength. The goal of these exercises is often prescribed to help a patient be more mobile.

As people age, the loss of mobility can be a real hardship. Maintaining joint health will lead to an improved lifestyle and independence. It’s never too early to start developing a joint health regime. In fact, starting it before problems arise is the best option.

Joint mobility is the range of uninhibited movement around a joint. It’s defined as “the degree to which an articulation (where two bones meet) can move before being restricted by surrounding tissues (ligaments/tendons/muscles).” The combination of mobility and stability enable people to have more natural movement. Spending as little as 10 minutes a day working to improve movement can lead to healthier joints, less pain, and decreased risk of injury.

There are three types of range of motion (ROM) exercises:

1. Active ROM – that a person can perform independently.

2. Passive ROM – that are performed on a person by someone else.

3. Active Assisted ROM – performed by a person with some assistance, such as when a person can reach a certain point within ROM but needs help completing the full range.

Elam Sports O`ahu is offering some simple active ROM exercises to keep joints in top condition. Note:

  • Anyone who has suffered a joint injury or has a joint illness should seek the advice of their health care professional before starting a routine.
  • To help remember the series of movements, do the exercises in the same order every time.
  • Repeat each motion two or three times on each side before moving to alternate side.
  • Use slow, gentle and smooth movements.
  • Stop if there is pain – it’s normal to feel some discomfort at first, with time discomfort will cease.


Starting position – either sitting or standing facing forward, with shoulders straight and relaxed.

Tilt head forward and back: Gently try to touch chin to chest, then tilt head back to starting position and tilt head as far back as possible to look at ceiling.

Tilt head side to side: Bring ear toward your shoulder, keeping shoulder still. Return head to the starting position. Then do alternate side.

Head turns: Turn head to look over shoulder. Tilt chin down to try to touch shoulder. Face forward again. Then do alternate side.

Shoulder and elbow:

Starting position — either sitting or standing — hold arm straight down at side, palms toward body.

Shoulder movement, up and down: Raise arm forward and then up over head, bring inner arm to ear. Bring arm back down to side. Bring it back as far as possible behind body. Return arm to the starting position. Then do alternate side.

Shoulder movement, side to side: Raise arm to the side and then up over head as far as possible. Return arm to side. Bring arm across the front of the body and reach for the opposite shoulder. Return your arm to the starting position. Then do alternate side.

Shoulder rotation: Raise both shoulders up toward ears, lower them to the starting position, and relax shoulders. Pull shoulders back, then relax them again. Roll shoulders in a smooth circle forward. Then roll shoulders in a smooth circle backward.

Elbow bends: With palm facing forward, bend elbow trying to touch shoulder with fingertips. Return arm to the starting position. Then do alternate side.

Arm and wrist:

Starting position – Seated with elbow bent and forearm resting on a flat surface (table or lap) with wrist hanging loosely over the side.

Wrist bends: Bend hand back toward wrist so fingers point toward ceiling. Then bend hand down so that your fingers point toward floor.

Wrist rotation: Move hand from side to side, then roll hand in circles in one direction then in the other direction.

Palm up, palm down: Same position with tucked elbow against side. Face palm down then face palm up, then down again. Then do alternate arm.

Hand and finger:

Starting position – Sit or stand, hand out in front of body.

Finger bends: Make a tight fist. Then open and relax hand.

Finger spreads: Open hand and stretch the fingers as far apart as possible. Bring fingers together again.

Finger-to-thumb touches: One at a time, touch each fingertip to the pad of your thumb.

Thumb-to-palm stretches: Move thumb and rest it across your palm. Move it out to the side again. Repeat with alternate hand.

Hip and knee:

Seek approval from healthcare provider if hip injury or surgery has occurred.

Starting position – Lie flat on the bed with your legs flat and straight.

Hip and knee bends: Point toes, then slowly bend knee up as close to chest as possible. Straighten leg and return it to a flat position on the bed.

Leg lifts: Raise leg so that foot is 6 to 12 inches off the bed. Hold it in the air for a few seconds. Return leg to the bed.

Leg movement, side to side: Flex foot so toes point up toward the ceiling. Move leg out to the side as far as possible. Bring leg back to the middle.

Leg rotation, in and out: Put leg flat on the bed. Roll your leg toward the middle so big toe touches the bed. Then roll leg out and try to make smallest toe touch the bed.

Knee rotation, in and out: Lie on back on the bed. Bend knee so the bottom of foot is flat on the bed. Slide heel towards buttocks. Return your foot to the starting position.

Repeat with alternate leg.

Ankle and foot:

Starting position – Sit in a chair with both feet flat on the floor.

Ankle bends: Keep toes on the floor and raise heel as high possible. Lower heel. Then keeping heel on the floor and raise your toes as high as you can.

Ankle rotation: Raise foot slightly off the floor. Roll ankle in circles, then roll ankle in circles in the other direction.

Toe bends: Curl toes down toward the sole (bottom) of the foot. Straighten them. Curl them up toward the ceiling. Then straighten them again.

Toe spreads: Spread your toes apart. Bring them together again.

Repeat with alternate foot.

Plan to do these exercises at least three times each week to improve and maintain joint range of motion.

If you need to select a physical therapy facility for rehabilitation, Elam encourages contacting them for a tour of their facility to explore the different ways they can help you get back to having fun and enjoying life.

Location: 91-1027 Shangrila Street, Building 1867, Kapolei. For more information, call 808-674-9595, email kap@ElamSportsOahu.com or visit ElamSportsOahu.com

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