The benefits of ROM exercises are threefold. We have an effect on the circulation, neuromodulation and connective tissue with very simple movements.
Firstly with movement, we promote circulation. With improved circulation, we encourage oxygenated, nutrient rich blood to the site of the injury. Stagnant, de-oxygenated blood is collected and carried away. This reduces swelling which already makes movement feel easier and less restricted. Movement nourishes joints. Synovial fluid lubricates the joint from the inside out.
Whenever we move the body interprets the movement. “Have I done this before? What was the outcome the last time? What can I expect from this movement?” A lot happens without us having to think about it. Protective patterns are normal during the acute phase of your recovery, like a limp. This gets the load off of the injured leg or ankle while you recuperate. After 2 weeks this movement pattern becomes redundant and unnecessary. When you move safely, without pain, the brain lessens the threat value of the movement. Instead of thinking about the previous time, your ankle rolled inwards and you were injured, the brain interprets the inward movement as safe and comfortable.
Connective tissue is the building block of healing. Scabs, new bone, ligament or muscle fibers, are made by connective tissue in the injured area. These brand new tissues need to be flexible and strong to withstand normal, everyday loads of walking, running or climbing stairs. If you don’t move the limb while it heals, you are at risk of a contracture, which is very strong but unmovable. It prevents you from moving or getting back in the gym because you can’t straighten your arm after your bicep muscle tear.