Mobility exercises in physiotherapy

You feel that you have lost some mobility in your shoulder or hip lately? Do you think that’s normal and that it’s part of aging?

Actually, no! Your joints are supposed to keep their range of motion if you use them regularly.

A rapid mobility loss or a restriction associated with pain may indicate an injury or health problem. A physiotherapy consultation will allow you to check the causes of this mobility loss, treat it and get an exercise program.

Lyne, a patient from our clinics, having recently recovered from an adhesive shoulder capsulitis (see article), learned the importance of mobility exercises. This condition significantly reduces the possible shoulder movements and can last more than a year if left untreated.

This article will help you understand how mobility exercises can help you recover from an injury and why physiotherapists recommend them.

What is joint mobility?

Joint mobility is the ability to move a joint in different directions. The available amplitude depends on the structures (ligaments, muscles, nerves, etc.) that surround the joint.

What can reduce my ability to move freely?

Lyne is not the only one who has experienced a decrease in joint mobility. Indeed, several health conditions can restrict mobility. Among other things, bursitis and tendinitis are often  treated in physiotherapy. Some more general problems such as osteoarthritis and arthritis can also limit movement.

A surgery or trauma can also be the cause of stiffness in a joint. Pain, swelling and scarring are then the causes of this restriction.

In all these cases, a consultation in physiotherapy is recommended. Indeed, it is important to perform the right exercises to recover mobility, otherwise it is possible to keep restrictions in the long run.

What do exercises work?

In general, mobility can be restricted by three components of the human body;

  • Nerves
  • Muscles
  • The joint and what surrounds it (capsule)

Often, the restriction of movement does not come from a single component, but from a mixture of these three elements. For Lyne, the mobility loss came from the joint and the muscles around it. Specific exercises were therefore recommended to work on these two components.

Thus, some exercises mobilize the joint and reduce the stiffness that is present. Other exercises can increase the flexibility of the muscles. The nerves are worked with neural mobilization exercises.

Mobility exercises and their accessories

mobility-exercises-equipment-physio-CMIThere are hundreds of ways to perform mobility exercises. Every physiotherapist has his favorite exercises. Some tools, however, facilitate the completion of exercises. Among others, we find the foam roller which makes it possible to work the back and the legs. Balls can also help release tension points while straps help to mobilize a joint with the help of one’s hands.

physiotherapy-clinic-CMI-mobility-exercises-pulley-rope

For Lyne, a pulley and a rope allowed her to regain some of the mobility during the treatments. At home, exercises with a stick helped maintain the mobility regained during physiotherapy sessions.

 At home exercices

At home, physiotherapists recommend doing mobility exercises a few times a week. A simple home exercise routine is easily accomplished. It is also possible to register for various sports activities such as yoga or pilates that can mobilize the different joints of the body.

For Lyne, a daily routine consisting of stretching and mobility exercises provided by her physiotherapist combined with the treatments allowed her to recover in a few months. Without the exercises, her capsulitis would probably have lasted more than a year.

In summary, mobility exercises are a form of exercises that aims to maintain or regain the range of motion of a joint. If you feel that one of your body parts is moving less freely, do not wait to see a physiotherapist at our clinics. He or she will teach you the right exercises and give you the motivation to achieve them!

By Vincent Chênevert, B.Sc. M.Sc. pht


Physiotherapist-Vincent Vincent has a masters in physiotherapy from the University of Montreal. Avid skier, Vincent is bringing his knowledge of skiing as an instructor for the Quebec Foundation for the Blind since 2014 and also works as a savior for Patro le Prévost, one of the oldest non-profit organizations in Quebec.