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How to use a goniometer for hand measurement

Updated July 19, 2017

Goniometry is a technique used to measure joint movement. A goniometer is a tool to measure the angle of movement. It consists of two straight arms, one for the starting point and the other which slides with the wrist or fingers to measure the amount of distance the hand is able to move. These arms are attached to a half or full circle. To determine if full range of motion is available, you must know the normal ranges each joint should be able to attain.

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  1. Measure wrist flexion. Begin with forearm resting on a table with palm facing down and hanging off of the table. Position stationary arm of goniometer against the outside of the forearm. The circle or pivot point should be positioned near the wrist bone and the second arm should be straight.

  2. Keeping the forearm still, bend the wrist so the fingers are pointed toward the floor as far as possible. Move the second goniometer arm so it is lined up with the pinky finger. Measure the angle.

  3. Normal wrist flexion values are 0 to 80 degrees.

  4. Measure wrist extension. Resume the starting position in Step 1. Bend the wrist up so the fingers are pointing toward the head. Move the second goniometer arm in line with the pinky finger. Measure the angle.

  5. Normal wrist extension values are 0 to 70 degrees.

  6. Measure wrist ulnar and radial deviations. Resume starting position in Step 1 but with palm resting on the table. Position goniometer on top of the hand and wrist. Line up stationary arm with the forearm with the circle at the wrist. Line up the second arm along the middle finger.

  7. Move wrist sideways away from the body toward pinky finger. Measure wrist ulnar deviation.

  8. Normal wrist ulnar deviation values are 0 to 30 degrees.

  9. Resume the straight starting position. Slide wrist in so thumb moves toward the body. Measure wrist radial deviation.

  10. Normal wrist radial deviation values are 0 to 20 degrees

  11. Measure finger flexion and extension. Begin with forearm and hand resting sideways on a table so pinky finger is on table and thumb is up. Position goniometer so its stationary arm is resting on the top of the finger with the pivot on first knuckle. Line up the second arm across the top of finger.

  12. Bend the fingers toward the palm with the second goniometer arm. Measure the flexion. Repeat for each finger.

  13. Normal finger flexion values for first knuckle are 0 to 50 degrees.

  14. Repeat flexion measurements with the second knuckle by moving the goniometer down across second joint and bending the fingertips in to the palm. Repeat for each finger.

  15. Normal flexion values for second knuckle are 0 to 80 degrees.

  16. Measure finger extension. Resume the starting position in Step 1 with goniometer at the first knuckle. Bend fingers back toward forearm. Measure movement. Repeat for each finger.

  17. Normal values for finger extension are 0 to 45 degrees.

  18. Measure finger abduction and adduction. Begin with forearm and hand, palm down, resting on the table. Position the pivot of the goniometer against the first knuckle closest to the wrist. Line up the stationary arm with forearm and second arm against finger.

  19. Move finger and second goniometer arm sideways toward the thumb. Measure abduction. Repeat on each finger.

  20. Normal finger abduction values are 0 to 20 degrees.

  21. Move finger and goniometer arm in toward the pinky finger. Measure adduction. Repeat on each finger.

  22. Normal finger adduction values are 0 to 20 degrees.

  23. Measure thumb movement without a goniometer. Move thumb to touch the tip of each finger. Move thumb to touch the base or pad of each finger.

  24. Move the thumb in a circle.

  25. If these movements can be performed, the thumb is moving through its full range.

  26. Tip

    The wrist and fingers should be measured to assess the functioning of the hand. Functional range of motion is the amount of movement you are able to perform without any help.


    If there has been an injury to the hand, wrist or fingers, or if movements cause pain, seek professional medical advice before attempting to measure movement.

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About the Author

Sandra Koehler is a physical therapy assistant and massage therapist with over 20 years of experience in pain management and physical rehabilitation. She has been a health and wellness freelance writer for over eight years and her work has been featured in publications such as "Living Without" and "Advance," and online at sites including WAHM, She Knows and Parenting.com.

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