Body in Motion

Treating for Better Flexibility and Range of Motion in the Upper Extremities

Part 1-Upper Extremities- Range of motion is an important topic, so we will focus on the upper extremities this month and move to the lower extremities next month, so look for that article to come soon.

Movement, flexibility, and motion work together so our body can perform at an optimal level. Pain and discomfort will sound the warning alarm to alert you that something is off. Perhaps you notice stiffness in your knee while walking, or you cannot write with a pen or pencil for more than a few minutes due to cramping hand and wrist pain.

Aside from typical aches and pains, you may be experiencing loss of motion and flexibility, which prevent movements that are natural to your body. Maybe your elbow will not bend properly, or you’re not able to fully extend your arm while reaching, causing a sharp pain in your neck or back.

Pain with motion and loss of movement that worsens over time are critical indicators that there may be something more serious going on with the affected area. So, there’s a reasonable concern when our bodies are not moving the way they should.

To better understand your pain, you need to know how your body is designed to perform. For this, we look to the proper range of motion guides to help in understanding more about your limitations.


Upper Extremities

The upper extremities consist of both left and right wrists, elbows, shoulders, and hands. Decreased motion can occur after an injury, impact sports, a fall, working out too hard, or wear and tear on your joints over time from repetitive movements.

Repetitive motions can occur in various settings and are commonly referred to as Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI). Some examples of this include:

  • Work-related movements that cause you to reach throughout the day
  • Assembly line work
  • Grocery store checkout clerk, bagger, or stocking shelves
  • Construction or labor type work
  • Using a computer mouse, typing
  • Exercising and sports training–boxing, weight training, football, basketball, gymnastics, etc.


Elbows & Shoulders 

Your shoulders are the least stable and often least moved joint on your body. If you are sitting at a desk all day at work, consider stopping your work for a few minutes each hour to perform flexibility exercises. By improving your passive range of motion, you will find the stiffness and pain in your neck, back, and shoulders will significantly improve.

To test your range of motion in your shoulders, you will first need to stand straight, without arching your back; or you can lie flat on the floor if standing straight produces back pain.

From this position, relax and inhale.

While exhaling, begin to slowly raise your arms, reaching above your head and past your ears.

To test your shoulders, you should be able to raise your arms 180◦ flexion and hyperextend your arms slightly behind the ears, abduction to raise and lower. To test your elbows, follow the diagram of outward and inward rotation and flex inward and outward as you would if you were holding a barbell performing bicep curls. You will also feel this motion in your shoulders.

To increase your motion and obtain maximum motion, remember to work on your flexibility with upper extremity stretches throughout your workday and before and after workouts.

To reduce the risk of injury, use proper techniques while stretching and move slowly.

Wrists & Hands-

The wrist moves along two axes and can move by extension, flexion, adduction, and abduction.

There can be pain in the wrist for a host of reasons, and a diagnosis strongly depends on the symptoms you are experiencing with the loss of motion.


Rest your forearm on a table.

With your hand hanging down, follow the graphic to test the range of motion of each wrist.

If you are experiencing loss of motion, tingling, sharp pain, or swelling in the joint, contact Jaffe Sports Medicine for an evaluation.




To test your hands, open and close each hand as you see in the abduction and adduction graphic below.



You should also periodically perform this exercise and stretch your fingers with opposing thumbs throughout the day. If you cannot touch your thumb to the base of your fifth finger (pinky finger), there may be an underlying cause.


If you have a loss of motion in your fingers or thumbs, this information is a helpful start in our determining the cause.


Treatment Options

If you cannot complete any of the exercises above or are experiencing pain that prevents the movement of any joint, we consider you to have a limited range of motion.

Jaffe Sports Medicine understands a good range of motion includes decreased pain, better flexibility, strength, better blood flow, more vital movements, and bodily actions, and lower potential for injury.

Jaffe Sports Medicine works individually with each patient to ensure that their health and wellness goals are met. We focus on all aspects of the body, including alignment, movement, and postural habits.

With a blend of physical therapy, interventional pain management, and additional sports medicine strategies, we will help you protect your body and prevent further injury.

At Jaffe Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation, we help our patients recover quickly, regain strength, and improve their range of motion while avoiding painful, expensive surgery.

To schedule an appointment at one of our many locations, contact Jaffe Sports Medicine today.