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If your physical therapist reaches for the goniometer, don’t panic! It’s not an ancient instrument of torture but, in fact, a helpful indicator of your progress to full health.

This quick guide will help you to understand the uses of a goniometer and why your physical therapist may want to use one on you. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about this simple, but incredibly useful, gadget.

What Is a Goniometer?

A goniometer looks like two straight rules attached at one end to create a hinge.

It’s sometimes made of metal but more commonly is transparent plastic to make it easy to use. There are several markings on the arms to help with measurements.

The simple device is used to measure the range of motion in a joint. The hinge is placed on the center of the joint. When the joint is flexed, the markings on the arms help to measure the full range of motion.

Why Is It Useful?

A physiotherapist uses a combination of stretches, manipulation, and massage to improve the function of a joint or muscle. They need to know the treatment plan they’re implementing for each patient is working.

Goniometers help your physiotherapist assess the range of motion in your troublesome joint before surgery or prior to starting a series of treatment sessions with you.

A physical therapist also needs a way to measure the progress of their work with you. A goniometer is a great tool to easily measure improvements in range of motion. It’s portable, uses standard measurements, and doesn’t require any batteries or power to work.

Are Digital Goniometers Available?

As well as the simple hinge-style goniometer, wearable digital versions are also available. These are ideal for complex or hard-to-assess joints, and help to demonstrate the real range of motion in a joint.

When the joint is static, such as when you’re lying on a table, your physiotherapist can manipulate the range of motion. However, this range will alter in different postures, such as standing up or bending at the knee. A digital goniometer measures the functional range of motion with accuracy.

What Causes Range of Motion Difficulties?

You may not think you have a range of motion problem but they can occur for a wide range of reasons. Regular sitting at a desk, for example, can restrict the range of motion in your shoulders.

More commonly, range of motion problems occur from injuries such as those caused by automobile accidents or sporting incidents. Some diseases, such as arthritis, can also cause range of motion difficulties.

Restriction in the motion of a joint may not sound like a big problem. However, a lack of flexibility can limit your ability to carry out daily tasks. It can also have an impact on other parts of your body, causing referred pain as other joints and muscles have to work harder to make up for the limited joint.

How Do I Know If My Range of Motion Is Limited?

If you’ve been struggling with pain relating to previous injuries or chronic overuse, it’s time to see a physiotherapist.

Your physical therapist will use a goniometer to test your joints for range of motion. This will reveal imbalances in your joints and limbs so that your physiotherapist can devise a personalized treatment plan.

Book a consultation today to start your journey to having pain-free and fully functional joints once again.