Range of motion activities are one of the most common caregiver tasks. Practically every client needs to have it done yet it is something that can easily be glossed over. Range of motion helps to improve circulation, increase muscular flexibility and improve joint functionality. Yet if they are done improperly they can injure a client or at the very least simply not be effective.
How do you perform range of motion so that it is beneficial and not harmful? I have 6 tips to help you dramatically improve the way you do range of motion. This article is not the technical “how-to” do range of motion. It addresses something even more important. It goes into principles that can be applied to any task that you have to do… not just range of motion.
6 Key Tips To Help Caregivers Improve Their Range of Motion Skills
1. Get Feedback From The Client
Getting feedback from your client while you are doing range of motion is very important. It helps you read the effectiveness of your stretching. How do you know how far to go? Or if you are going too far? Ask the client. Say, “Let me know when you start to feel the stretch?” or “Is this too far?”
When you ask the client you are giving them control over their own care. This improves their independence even if they can’t physically move and deepens rapport between you and the client because they feel like they can trust you.
2. Don’t Go To The Point of Pain
It is very important that you don’t stretch a client’s limb to the point of pain. When a muscles reaches the point of pain it will contract. This will cause micro-tears in the muscle tissue and defeats the purpose of stretching in the first place.
The client may give you visual cues if they are feeling pain. They could be cringing or grimacing or you could feel the actual muscle tighten up. If you notice any of these back off.
3. Go To The Point of Resistance
Even though you should not go to the point of pain don’t be afraid to go to the point of resistance. Remember that you want to cause some type of muscular change while doing range of motion. If you never bring a limb to the point of resistance than you will not be creating real value. Sure there is short term benefit because you improve blood flow and keep the muscles and joints moving but significant benefit is achieved if you bring the limb to the point of mild resistance.
4. Maintain Good Body Mechanics
Body mechanics are possibly one of the most important elements of self-care for a caregiver. Doing range of motion can hurt you if you don’t do it properly. Below are some tips to help you maintain good body mechanics.
- Raise the level of the bed up to hip level or wherever is most comfortable for you.
- Keep a straight back. If you curve your back you are putting an increased amount of strain on your lower back.
- Relax your shoulders. Many people carry stress in their neck and shoulders. When you are in the midst of doing range of motion with a client think about relaxing your shoulders. This will help decrease the amount of strain in your neck.
- Get in a low lunge position. If you get in a lower stance it gives you a stronger base. This means you’ll be using your legs for your strength and not your back.
- Make sure to breathe. A lot of us breathe shallower or even hold our breath when we are concentrating. Breathing deeply can help you relax.
5. Eliminate Distractions
Your client may be sleeping when you are doing range of motion but this is not an invitation to check your Facebook on your phone or text your boyfriend. The client needs your full attention. When range of motion is not done well… many clients may experience contractures which can create long term functionality problems.
They need you to help prevent this and playing Angry Birds or Cut the Rope on your smart phone is not helpful to them.
6. Understand Proximity
Range of motion is an intimate activity. You are in very close proximity with a client and it needs to be handled with professionalism. Realize that they may feel uncomfortable at times with someone being so close. How do you maintain professionalism? Here are a few ways:
- Dress appropriately. No Daisy Dukes or low-cut shirts. Men keep your beards neat and tidy. No ZZ Top beards.
- Pay close attention to how you are positioning your body.
- Don’t glare at the client.
- Make sure you smell nice. Shower regularly. This should go without saying but don’t alas, I’ll say it anyway. Also, don’t go overboard on the perfume or cologne. Better yet… don’t wear it all. Your client could be allergic.
- Make conversation at the level that they are comfortable with. Clients that are naturally quiet may not want a chatter box talking their ear off. On the flip side, a client that likes conversation may want you to help carry the conversation. Read the client’s preferences and try your best to accommodate them.
Range of motion is an incredibly important activity for many clients. If you follow the tips above you will be much better positioned to improve the quality of life for your client.