How to Measure Shoulder Range of Motion

Measuring your shoulder range of motion is important for two reasons. First, it allows you to track your progress as you work on improving the range of motion in your shoulders. Second, it can help you identify any potential problems that might be causing restrictions in your shoulder movement. In this article we will show how to measure shoulder range of motion from home.

There are a few different ways to measure shoulder range of motion (ROM), but the most common and accurate method is using a goniometer. A goniometer is a simple device that consists of two arms that are attached at a hinge. A physiotherapist would place one arm of the goniometer against patient’s body, and ouse the other arm to measure the angle of the joint.

How to Measure Shoulder ROM – 4 methods

Image shows a goniometer, which is a measurement tool used for measuring shoulder range of motion by physiotherapists. The device looks like two plastic rulers as a sandwich, with a hinge that connects them together. Around the hinge are numbers between 0º and 360º to measure the angle when the two arms of the goniometer are extended to a straight line, doubling its length.
Goniometer that can be used to measure shoulder range of motion

How to measure shoulder ROM with a Goniometer

To use a goniometer to measure shoulder range of motion, you may need the help of another person.

Image shows a physiotherapist measuring range of motion for a patient's flexion using a goniometer.
The goniometer hinge is placed at the centre of the shoulder joint to measure flexion range of motion

Forward Flexion

To use a goniometer to measure flexion of your shoulder, hold the goniometer next to your arm, with the hinge at the top and level with the centre of your shoulder joint. Move your arm forwards and up as much as you can comfortably, moving with one arm of the goniometer. The other arm of the goniometer should remain vertical and parallel with your torso. The angle at the hinge of the goniometer will indicate the amount of flexion.

Extension

To measure extension keep the goniometer in the same position as above. Move your arm backward until you feel a stretch in your shoulder. The angle at the hinge of the goniometer will indicate the amount of extension.

Abduction

To measure abduction, lift your arm out to the side as far as you can comfortably. One arm of the goniometer should lie flat against your back, and the other arm should move with your arm.

External Rotation

To measure external rotation, rotate your arm so that your hand points away from your body. The angle at the hinge of the goniometer will indicate the amount of external rotation.

This can be tricky to do by yourself, so you may have to ask the help of another person to use the goniometer correctly. When visiting a physiotherapist, patients are often measured while lying down.

How to measure your shoulder range of motion using a wall

If you don’t have access to a goniometer, there are a few other ways to estimate shoulder range of motion. In this method, you can simply use a wall to keep track of your range of motion progress.

Flexion

To measure flexion using a wall, stand with your shoulder next to the wall and mark where your shoulder is. Move your arm upwards in front of you as much as you can and mark the wall where your fingertips and knuckles are when you have reached your maximum range of motion.

Measure the distance from the floor to the mark on the wall and label it with today’s date. As you continue your recovery process, your wall will record your progress.

To measure the angle, you could draw two lines from your shoulder mark on the wall. One to the mark where your fingertips and knuckles touch the wall, and the second line vertically to the floor. Use a protractor to measure the angle. However this is not recommended due to the amount of effort and the lack of accuracy the angle will represent.

These methods will give you a general idea of your shoulder range of motion, but not an accurate medical measurement.

Abduction

You can also use this wall method for abduction and other exercises. Stand with your back against a wall with your arm extended straight out to the side. Mark the spot on the wall where your fingertips and knuckles touch, then measure the distance from that mark to the floor.

Use your camera phone to take photos of you extending your shoulder

Open the camera app on your phone and set a timer delay. Put your phone on a table with the front-facing camera facing towards you. Press the button to take the photo and move into frame where you can see yourself, including your arm at full range of motion.

You can repeat this for all the above exercises and review the photos. Doing the assessments again in the coming weeks and months means you will be able to review your range of motion as captured with your photos.

Using an app to get an accurately measure shoulder range of motion

Reflex Health App Images: Summary, History, Progress

Reflex Health is an app that allows you to get an accurate measure of your shoulder range of motion. The app will use the camera on your phone or tablet to track the movement of your joint and give you a readout of the angle.

The Reflex Health App is available on the App store and is quick and easy to use. The app will give you the most accurate measure of your shoulder range of motion than the methods described in this article. In fact, Reflex Health provides accuracy to within 5º, which is the same accuracy you would get with a medical professional using a goniometer.

How to measure shoulder range of motion with Reflex Health

To use the Reflex Health Shoulder App, start by placing your phone or tablet on a stable surface, such as a table. You will need to be able to stand around two metres from the phone or iPad so that your upper body is visible, including with your arms up.

Press “Start Assessment”

The app will show key landmarks overlain on your body using Augmented Reality. This technology creates a body model using these dots to perform accurate measurements trusted by physiotherapists.

When you start the assessment, you will be shown a video of each exercise and be guided by audio instructions. The video and audio instructions are very clear, so you just need to relax and follow the prompts. There’s no need to go back and forth to reach your phone as the app automatically leads you through each assessment.

As you perform each movement you will see the measured angle displayed on the screen. The app will take a photo of the moment of measurement and saves the measurement, and photo to your device to review later.

Measuring Pain

In addition to measuring your shoulder range of motion, you will be invited to record a pain rating for each exercise for each shoulder. This is important in monitoring your recovery as changes in pain are a key indicator of how well you are healing. The presence of pain for specific exercises is also important information in diagnosis of shoulder conditions.

Shoulder Measurements in Reflex Health

Flexion

Stand with your right shoulder facing the camera. Raise your arm up as much as you can in front of you. Try not to compensate the movement by leaning back, but keep your back straight.

You will see the measured Range of Motion go from 0º to maximum 180º, with lines overlaid on your arm and torso on the screen.

Hold your position at maximum range of motion for 1.5 seconds. The app will say “Done” when it has recorded an accurate shoulder angle and taken a photo of your assessment.

You will be invited to record a pain score between 1 and 5 for this exercise.

Abduction

Stand facing the camera and raise both your arms up out towards the side, as far as you can go. You will see the measured angle for each shoulder on the screen.

Extension

Stand with your right shoulder facing the screen. Extend your right arm backwards as far as you can go.

External Rotation

Stand facing the camera, with your hands down your sides. Keep your elbows close to your body and bend at the elbow, raising your hands to 90º from your shoulder. Keep your elbows where they are and move your hands away from each other.

Your range of motion is displayed on the screen as a percentage.

If you’re concerned about your shoulder range of motion, or if you’re having pain or other symptoms in your shoulders, make sure to see a doctor or physical therapist. They can help you determine the cause of your symptoms and develop a treatment plan to improve your shoulder range of motion.

Conclusion

There are several methods that you can use to measure your shoulder range of motion. However, the most accurate and convenient method is to use the Reflex Health app. The app takes into account your individual body measurements and provides clear instructions so that you can get an accurate assessment of your shoulder range of motion. In addition, the app records pain ratings for each exercise, which can be helpful in monitoring your shoulder condition.

Take control of your shoulder recovery with Reflex Health

With Reflex Health monitor your shoulder range of motion and shoulder pain over time. Users say “It would be like going on a diet without tracking your weight loss.” Take control today by downloading the Reflex Health App.

Download Reflex Health from the AppStore

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