Shoulder and elbow range of motion for the performance of activities of daily living: a systematic review

A.M. Oosterwijk, M.K. Nieuwenhuis, C.P. van der Schans, L.J. Mouton

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The loss of range of motion (ROM) in the upper extremities can interfere with activities of daily living (ADL) and, therefore, many interventions focus on improving impaired ROM. The question, however, is what joint angles are needed to naturally perform ADL. The present review aimed to compile and synthesize data from literature on shoulder and elbow angles that unimpaired participants used when performing ADL tasks. A search was conducted in PubMed, Cochrane, Scopus, CINAHL, and PEDro. Studies were eligible when shoulder (flexion, extension, abduction, adduction) and/or elbow (flexion, extension) angles were measured in unimpaired participants who were naturally performing ADL tasks, and angles were provided per task. Thirty-six studies involving a total of 66 ADL tasks were included. Results demonstrated that unimpaired participants used up to full elbow flexion (150°) in personal care, eating, and drinking tasks. For shoulder flexion and abduction approximately 130° was necessary. Specific ADL tasks were measured often, however, almost never for tasks such as dressing. The synthesized information can be used to interpret impairments on the individual level and to establish rehabilitation goals in terms of function and prevention of secondary conditions due to excessive use of compensatory movements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)505-528
JournalPhysiotherapy Theory and Practice
Issue number7
Early online date29 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2018


  • movement disorders


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