Difference Between Active and Passive Range of Motion

Main Difference – Active vs Passive Range of Motion

The range of motion (ROM) in physics is defined as the linear or angular distance traveled by a moving object while being properly attached to another object. But when it comes medical terms, the definition involves the distance and direction a joint can move between the flexed and extended positions (movement around a joint).This basically depends on the muscle strength and flexibility.

Reduction of this range of motion is referred to as ‘limited range of motion’ and is particularly seen as a result of a mechanical problem with a specific joint or  conditions like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.  Inflammatory signs of these diseases can lead to pain, swelling, and stiffness associated with a limited range of movements.

Active and passive range of motions are two types of exercises which supports to increase the range of motion to a healthy level while reducing associated inflammatory signs. The main difference between active and passive range of motion is the fact that active range of motion is carried out by the patient himself whereas passive range of motion is carried out by a physiotherapist.

Difference Between Active and Passive Range of Motion - Comparison Summary

What is Active Range of Motion

This is a type of exercise where the patient himself carries out all the necessary activities, and movements without any assistance and  the physiotherapist will provide guidance through verbal clues.

Furthermore, the physiotherapist will observe how the movements are being done in order to identify any possible dysfunctions or weaknesses in the joints. He will also document the improvement of the individual and his condition.

As far as the advantage of this method is considered, the patient himself will be able to increase the strength of his muscles and flexibility of joints, thereby identifying his improvement and overall capacity.

Main Difference - Active vs Passive Range of Motion

What is Passive Range of Motion

This particular type of exercise is practiced on a joint which is found to be inactive; the patient does not try to do any movement, and therapist himself stretches the soft tissues in patient’s body, kept in a relaxed position.

Physiotherapists are the health care professionals who engage in this therapy, and passive ROM is usually used to help paralyzed patients – individuals who are unable to mobilize a specific joint following a road traffic accident, etc.

This entire performance will be helpful to identify the degree of the limited range of movements, dysfunctional areas of the body, improvement of the condition and possible complications such as immobility and muscle atrophy.

Passive ROM will prevent the occurrence of stiffness and further limitation of movements.

Difference Between Active and Passive Range of Motion

Difference Between Active and Passive Range of Motion

The main difference between active and passive range of motion is the fact that Active ROM is carried out by the patient himself whereas Passive ROM is carried out by a physiotherapist.

The selection of Active ROM and Passive ROM on a patient is usually decided by factors such as patient’s overall mobility and medical requirements.

For example, a patient who is trying to identify the extent of their injury and course of recovery will be captivated by Active ROM whereas a patient who is partially or completely paralyzed or has a permanently disable limb will proceed with passive ROM.

However, it is important to carry out one of these in order to ensure an adequate blood supply and to increase the muscular strength.

Image Courtesy:

“1686063” (Public Domain) via

“Mark Waites, NHS physiotherapist from Llanelli” by   via r

About the Author: Embogama

Embogama is a passionate freelance writer for several years. Her areas of interest include general medicine, clinical medicine, health and fitness, Ayurveda medicine, psychology, counseling and piano music


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