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What Is the Normal Range of Motion in the Shoulder?

by
author image Dr. Robert Manning
Dr. Robert Manning holds a Doctor of Chiropractic degree and practices in upstate New York. He has worked in a multitude of settings including the veterans affairs system, inpatient hospitals and private practice. He has been a writer and contributor to various Web-based publications for five years, and produces health-related works in his local community.
What Is the Normal Range of Motion in the Shoulder?
A young man is rotating and stretching his shoulders. Photo Credit shakzu/iStock/Getty Images

The shoulder joint is a shallow ball-and-socket joint between the humerus -- upper-arm bone -- and the glenoid fossa of the scapula -- shoulder blade. A unique joint, the shoulder has only one bony attachment to the rest of the skeleton in the clavicle -- collarbone -- where it attaches to the scapula. This unique anatomy allows a wide range of motion for the shoulder joint.

Abduction

Abduction is a term that refers to a body part moving laterally away from the body. In the case of the shoulder, this refers to the arm swinging out from the side of the body, in an arm-flapping motion. Range of motion is measured with the palm facing the side of the body and the arm held straight. It is measured from neutral -- the arm hanging loosely at the side of the body -- to the highest point the arm can be lifted. Normal range is 150 degrees.

Flexion

Flexion is also referred to as forward flexion. In the case of the shoulder, forward flexion is the motion of the shoulder when lifting the arm in front of the body, such as to point at something in front of you. Range of motion is measured with the palm facing the side of the body and the arm straight. It is measured from neutral to the highest point the arm can be lifted over the head. Normal range of motion is 180 degrees.

Extension

Extension is a shoulder motion that involves moving the arm behind the body, such as reaching into a back pocket. Range of motion is measured with the palm facing the side of the body and the arm straight. It is measured from neutral to the highest point the arm can be lifted behind the back. Normal range of motion is between 45 and 60 degrees.

Lateral Rotation

Lateral rotation is often referred to as external rotation. It is a motion that is performed with the elbow bent to 90 degrees and swinging the forearm away from the body, such as when opening a cabinet door. The range of motion is measured with the elbow bent to 90 degrees and from neutral (with the elbow against the body and the forearm in front of the body) to the widest point that the forearm can move away from the body. Normal range of motion is 90 degrees.

Medial Rotation

Medial rotation is often referred to as internal rotation. It is a motion that is performed with the elbow bent to 90 degrees and swinging the forearm toward from the body, such as when closing an open cabinet door. The range of motion is measured with the elbow bent to 90 degrees and from neutral -- with the elbow against the body and the forearm in front of the body -- to the widest point that the forearm can move toward the body. Normal range of motion is 70 to 90 degrees. Internal rotation can also be measured by use of Apley's scratch test.

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