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Active vs. Passive range of motion physical therapy exercisesWhen you receive physical therapy treatment, you’ll first be assessed to see where your current pain and ability is. Depending on your injury or condition there are a variety of different treatments that can be used in your physical therapy treatment plan. These treatments are split into two major groups, passive and active treatment. Passive treatments are treatments that are administered by the physical therapist to the affected area. Active treatments are exercise treatments that are performed by the patient.

What is Passive Range of Motion Physical Therapy?

Passive range of motion treatments are movements that are administered by the physical therapists. These types of treatments are for the early stages of treatment when the patient is too injured or their condition is causing too much pain for them to do the active exercises. Passive treatments move the affected joints to keep them active and moving so that they heal properly. These treatments are in place to improve circulation, reduce swelling and improve muscle and joint function.

Passive Range of Motion Treatments

There are a few different passive range of motion treatments including massage, hot and cold therapy, electrical stimulation therapy and hydrotherapy. Massage treatment is a passive treatment that improves blood flow to the affected area and reduces pain and swelling. Hot and cold therapy treatment is using hot and cold compresses to reduce swelling and pain. Electrical stimulation therapy is a painless treatment that sends tiny electrical waves through your nervous system to relieve pain. It is used to reduce muscle spasms and also helps your body produce pain relieving hormones. Finally, hydrotherapy treatment involves sitting or performing low intensity movements in water which relieves pressure on muscles while allowing you to move your joints without pain.

What is Active Range of Motion Physical Therapy?

Active range of motion physical therapy exercises are movements that are performed by the patient. These types of exercises are typically for the later stages of physical therapy once your injury or condition has healed enough to be able to perform these motions without extreme pain. Active treatments are deliberate motions or exercises done by the patient to build strength, improve flexibility and improve range of motion. These treatments are in place to improve the function of the injured area back to it's original level of function.

Active Range of Motion Exercises

There are a few different active range of motion exercises including stretching, strength training and stability training. Doing stretching exercises provided by a physical therapist will improve your flexibility and range of motion over time. Strength training will build your muscles around the injured areas giving them support. Finally, stability training is an active range of motion training that strengthens your core and gives your spine support which will also facilitate healing.


Both passive and active physical therapy range of motion treatments have different benefits. Each are used at different stages of your healing and help you build your strength, flexibility and range of motion. This in turn reduces your pain and helps you heal your injury or condition.






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Posted in: Physical Therapy