What are ROM exercises for bedridden patients?

A fellow caregiver asked...

Are there bedridden exercises to help with stiffness? My mom is recovering from surgery and flat on her back. Her recovery is likely to be long, and she's already complaining of stiffness. A friend said she could benefit from ROM exercises. What are ROM exercises for bedridden patients, and do they work?

Expert Answer

Jennifer Serafin, N.P. is a registered nurse and geriatric nurse practitioner at the Jewish Homes for the Aged in San Francisco.

We usually do ROM movements on bedridden patients -- these exercises help keep joints flexible. ROM stands for "range of motion."

Don't try to help your mother do ROM exercises without taking to her doctor or physical or occupational therapist first. A professional can train you how to do them properly.

Basically, you take each joint in the hands, legs, feet, and fingers and put it gently through its range of motion or movement comfort zone. For instance, you can gently bend and flex your mom's arm while supporting her wrist and elbow. You can do the same with her fingers, legs, feet, and toes. A ROM routine usually works all of the joints in the body. You never force the movement, and obviously, you need to be careful if your parent has any broken bones or tender areas.