Passive Range of Motion Physical Therapy in Cats

Passive Range of Motion Physical Therapy - Conditions Treated, Procedure, Efficacy, Recovery, Cost, Considerations, Prevention

What is Passive Range of Motion Physical Therapy?

Passive range of motion (PROM) is a form of physical therapy used on humans, cats, and other animals to restore range of motion in joints, stimulate senses that respond to movement and touch (mechanoreceptors), and improve muscle reach (length). This therapy is performed when a medical condition has compromised the joint’s ability to straighten (extend) and bend (flex). PROM therapy may also have an effect on neurological conditions by establishing patterns of movement. 

PROM therapy involves passive manipulation of joints through their natural range of motion (ROM), which is measured in the degrees of a circle. To accomplish this, the therapist stretches and rotates joints. Stretches add sarcomeres, units of fibre in muscles, to increase the muscles’ range. The use of passive movement techniques means that the animal does not need to use their own muscular effort or bear weight. ROM techniques involve the therapist bending and straightening a joint. The ROM that the joint is manipulated through should not cause pain for the animal to avoid further injury to a joint. PROM therapy may be appropriate for conditions that have resulted in a decreased range of motion in one or more of your cat's joints. Conditions such as trauma from an accident or surgery or chronic conditions such as arthritis may benefit from this type of therapy.

This form of physical therapy is not a cure for a medical condition in your cat, but when used in conjunction with veterinary medicine treatment, can improve the speed and extent of your cat's recovery. A trained veterinary physical therapist should perform this therapy to ensure it is appropriate for the injury or condition being treated in your cat, and that aggravation of an injury or condition does not occur. A trained therapist may instruct you in the appropriate use of PROM techniques at home. This therapy should only be used on the advice and training of a veterinary therapist.

Passive Range of Motion Physical Therapy Procedure in Cats

Your veterinary therapist will perform a physical assessment of your cat to determine appropriate therapy and a treatment schedule for your cat.

PROM exercises may be combined with other physical therapy techniques such as massage and heat prior to the therapy session to warm up and relax muscles. 

For PROM techniques, your cat usually will be placed on its side on a soft surface. Some therapists may have the pet stand, depending on their condition and cooperation level. The therapist will push or pull the affected limbs to cause them to flex or extend as appropriate without causing a pain reaction in your cat. Your therapist will hold your cat's limb near the joint to reduce leverage forces being placed on the joint. All the joints in the limb, including shoulders and hips, may be manipulated in a slow and steady fashion to the limit of their comfortable movement. After therapy your therapist may apply ice to reduce possible swelling of the muscles and joints.

Sometimes this therapy is performed in warm water which allows the muscles to relax, for cats this mode of therapy requires a cat that is comfortable in water. Your veterinarian therapist may instruct you on use of these techniques at home including information on how far to move each limb and number of repetitions. PROM sessions usually take 10 to 20 minutes and may be repeated several times per day.

Efficacy of Passive Range of Motion Physical Therapy in Cats

Many benefits from passive range of motion therapy can be achieved that will aid in the healing of joint disorders. Benefits include:

  • Reduction in pain and discomfort
  • Enhanced circulatory function
  • Enhanced lymphatic flow
  • Prevention of shortening of soft tissue and joints (contracture)
  • Retention of soft tissue mobility
  • Increased synovial fluid (lubricant between joints) production

This physical therapy is most successful when combined with traditional veterinary medicine treatments and medications.

Passive Range of Motion Physical Therapy Recovery in Cats

Passive range of motion therapy in cats is part of physical therapy recommended in recovery from a disease or trauma that has caused restriction of movement in your cat's joints. PROM techniques performed by a trained therapist or under the supervision of a trained therapist can improve your cat's recovery from injury or disease and shorten the recovery period required.

Cost of Passive Range of Motion Physical Therapy in Cats

PROM therapy sessions are typically 20 minutes long and the cost of a therapy session ranges from $30 to $75 depending on your therapist and cost of living in your location. The therapist may train you to perform some of these techniques at home. Follow-up by a trained therapist for several appointments is usually necessary and, in chronic conditions, therapy may be ongoing. Total cost of therapy for multiple sessions can range from $300 to $1,500 or more for chronic conditions.

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Cat Passive Range of Motion Physical Therapy Considerations

It is important to note that PROM therapy is not a substitution for veterinary medical care, it will not treat an underlying condition, but may aid in recovery. PROM does not prevent muscle atrophy or increase muscle strength or endurance; it does provide more flexibility and lengthening of muscles. Exercises should never cause pain or be forced, which could cause injury. Your veterinary therapist will use slow steady pressure to achieve ROM results in your cat.

Passive Range of Motion Physical Therapy Prevention in Cats

Prevention of the need for PROM therapy lies in prevention of injuries to muscles, ligaments tendons, bones and spine that would necessitate this type of therapy to aid in recovery. Ensuring your cat has a safe environment and adequate exercise and diet to avoid injury and obesity which contributes to joint injury, is important to ensure your cat is healthy and injury-free. A screened-in area for your cat to enjoy the outside safely or training your cat to walk on a leash will improve their physical well being and minimize the risk of injury due to accidents.

Passive Range of Motion Physical Therapy Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals






14 Years


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My pet has the following symptoms:
I took Annie in bc she was holding her back right leg up. They said she had a locating patella. Hoping by giving steroid and pain meds shed get better. After a week she had improved a little by not holding leg up but still not using it barely and although she was very active before this she now lays around mostly. I took her back they did X-ray and said she now has a torn .... basically she tore her ACL now too. They showed arthritis in that knee and she cant put weight on it. So they suggested surgery to repair both. My fear is the recovery. I know I cant do the pt of her leg bc I dont like to see animals in pain. They gave her more pain meds at 1 ml more, than before and she seems to feel better. Just limping around now. She is more active than last week but still not 100% herself. What should I do. Leave it and keep her on Pain meds or do the surgery? And what if I cant do the PT myself?

July 8, 2018

0 Recommendations

Whilst I appreciate you don’t like seeing animals in pain, I’m sure you can see that any physiotherapy is for the ‘greater good’ which would outweigh any pain that may be felt. I cannot say whether surgery or conservative treatment would be best for Annie’s case, especially with her age; your Veterinarian should be giving you some options based on their judgement. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 8, 2018

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