Goniometry: The Missing Flexibility Assessment
Optimal posture is largely determined through length tension relationships amongst antagonistic muscle structures. Therefore, flexibility, a muscles ability to provide adequate range of motion, plays a integral role in maintaining alignment as well as performing functional day to day tasks. The effects of incorporating a flexibility program into an exercise routine are published and proven effective in increasing range of motion (2,3,4,5). One study found that static stretching of just 15 second durations proved to significantly improve balance through decreasing postural instability(1). The evidence behind flexibility improving postural stabilization and increasing range of motion is indisputable. However, the application of flexibility programs can be controversial. How should flexibility programs be integrated to an exercise program to provide maximal benefits?
The answer lies within a very uncommon but extremely important assessment called goniometry. Goniometry receives little attention within the fitness field yet can provide substantial evidence needed in determining exercise selection and progression. For those who are wondering what is goniometry, it is an objective measurement of a joints range of motion. Measurements are taken through using a goniometer. A goniometer has two arms, a stationary arm and a moving arm with fulcrum in the middle. Through using a goniometerone can quantitatively measure range of motion, providing evidence of restricted motion, and also, determine effectiveness of flexibility programs. In addition, goniometry testing helps identify dysfunction through impaired range of motion, as well as detect pain and other symptoms leading to limiting functional capabilities.
To illustrate the application of goniometry, lets imagine performing the assessment on a client named John Smith. When assessing range of motion for knee flexion, his measurement came to 110 degrees. This would indicate John has some muscular imbalance leading to an impaired range of motion therefore not allowing him to flex beyond the 110 degrees. Through noting his knee flexion range of motion it is apparent that John should not be doing deep knee squats beyond parallel. His range of motion is far to limited to be performing a squat at that depth. The goniometer assessment helps assist in determining exercise movement specifics that other assessments cannot provide.
Although goniometry is rarely utilized within the scope of the fitness, it is a fundamental component in physical therapy and rehabilitation. Its effectiveness should be incorporated into every fitness professional assessment tool kit. It will not only provide a quantitative analysis of range of motion through helping develop an exercise program but will also inform clients/patients with flexibility progression. Adding goniometry into your assessment profile will help provide clients/patients with a safe structured exercise program, as well as serve as an excellent tool to crate better stability, posture and take the guess work out of flexibility.
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- Decoster LC, Cleland J, Altieri C, Russell P. The effects of hamstring stretching on range of motion: a systematic literature review. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2005;35(6):377–87.
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- Kokkonen J, Nelson AG, Eldredge C, Winchester JB. Chronic static stretching improves exercise performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007;39(10):1825–31.
- Radford JA, Burns J, Buchbinder R, Landorf KB, Cook C. Does stretching increase ankle dorsiflexion range of motion? A systematic review. Br J Sports Med. 2006;40(10):870–5.